It has been five long years since the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers clashed for the last time in the NBA playoffs. As many Warriors fans remember, the Warriors (6 seeded) took the Clippers (3 heads) to 7 games and lost a tight but very competitive series.
So competitive, in fact, that emotions on both sides have reached unprecedented heights. When Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Steve Blake and Marreese Speights used the Staples Center's famous secret tunnel to confront Clippers in their locker room, it shows how despicable the two teams were.
The long-awaited revenge between these two rivals finally came to fruition five years later, but with the warning that it is not the same rivalry as before. Lob City – a once-promising tandem that was finally transferred to Flop City – is no longer, their three big bands, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, having been separated and sent to different teams.
Meanwhile, the Warriors, who were once caterpillars under the tutelage of Mark Jackson, have metamorphosed into an NBA version of Mothra, a gigantic giant who stormed the league.
As the Warriors reached heights inaccessible to all other teams in the league, the Clippers quickly turned Western Conference contenders into huge disappointments and were always considered a team that wasted their potential and talent.
And just like that, the rivalry that, for all intents and purposes, has become a side after 2014 has ceased to exist.
The credit goes to the Clippers, however, to have rebounded and formed a young team well trained by Doc Rivers, who made the most of a team that did not even participate in the playoffs, especially after trading Tobias Harris who was considered their best player on the team. The Clippers managed to hang on to seed 8 and make their way to a playoff spot – and jump straight into Warriors' waiting arms to a seed.
Make no mistake: the warriors are very favored. Most experts and fans expect them to sweep the Clippers or, at worst, abandon a match before being eliminated by a gentleman of 5 games. This match should take place at Staples Center. Apparently, Curry considers popcorn as such. like the worst in the NBA – which will certainly be blamed if he gives up another bad night of shooting in Game 3 or 4.
But well within the comfortable confines of Oracle Arena, Curry became his Human Torch character, accumulating 38 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists, on an incredible 11-of-16 shootout (68.8%), an 8 12 clips beyond the bow (66.7%), an absolute shooting percentage out of this world (TS%) of 95.2% and exceeding Ray Allen's list of all-time shots at three points made in the playoffs of the NBA (386 threes).
Associated with Kevin Durant's 23 points on 8 out of 16 shots, Draymond Green's 17 points and a team at both ends of the floor, the Warriors lost no time in establishing their superiority over the Clippers.
Let's describe this intense first game of the playoffs of the NBA.
Warriors strengthen their defense
The dominant idea that the long series of 82 games of the regular season does not matter is something real. For a championship team like the Warriors, they are well aware of their own abilities. As a team with the system, talent, and experience that no other league team can beat, the Warriors treat the regular season almost like a nuisance, something they are in a hurry to finish to get to the main event.
This showed how they tackled the defense all season: they finished 11th in the championship with a score of 108.5, which is relatively mediocre for a team filled with excellent defenders.
In actual main event, however, there was a noticeable improvement in the way the Warriors approached the defense in this game against the Clippers. There was little or no communication problem on the defensive side. The switches were seamless. There were few defenders who failed to follow their missions. The players were very committed, especially Durant, who tends to calm down and lose concentration on the defensive side.
The first possession of the game showed how much the Warriors wanted to set the defensive tone. Notice how Thompson denies Landry Shamet – a 42.2% shooter from the back – a chance to even touch the ball. Keep track of the seamless transition between Durant's cousins and DeMarcus and how Durant keeps Ivica Zubac at the bottom of the wall, finally blocking her shot and living with a missing three from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a mediocre shooter at three points (36.7%).
The Warriors limited the Clippers to 40.4% of their shots on goal, while limiting the number of goals scored to three points from team # 2 in the regular season to 36.7% over the same period. 'bow.
The defensive stats of the Warriors for this game – 95.4 – is a more telling statistic that indicates that the Clippers are unable to completely break the Warriors' defense.
The usual suspects excelled, as one could expect. Green was actively scouring the ground like a free security, looking for passes to deflect and acting as a deterrent to the rim if the brave chose the unfortunate option of trying to attack him directly. Thompson was an absolute rock that could not be moved to the post office, as well as smothering a few aisles to the edge. Andre Iguodala was as reliable as ever, with his trademark, his gangs and his flights that turned into buckets at the other end.
There is, however, a problem: the pick and roll tandem of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell found gaping holes in the Warriors' defense, especially against the duo of Quinn Cook – who was struggling to contain Williams at the point of contention. attack. – and Cousins, who was operating in the pick-and-roll and was too heavy to prevent Williams from overtaking him. Williams and Harrell combined 51 of the Clippers '104 points, mainly thanks to Williams' collaboration with his favorite pick-and-roll partner in Harrell.
As expected, the Clippers can not contain the warriors offensive
Clearly, the Clippers have no hope of containing the senior Warrior officer unless Doc Rivers does something that completely throws the Warriors out of their comfort zone. But if the match 1 was an indication, the Clippers are more or less unlucky on the defensive side.
Rivers had a tangible approach to defending the Warriors, perhaps the only defensive tactics he can employ in a series where his team is extremely disadvantaged in terms of talent and skill: leave Green and Cousins alone on the perimeter and dare to shoot them. ball. It's a logical tactic: more shots for Green and Cousins means less shots for Curry, Thompson or Durant.
While this strategy worked largely for Cousins, who crossed the back-of-the-world and who went to 1 in 3 and was relegated to the rank of isolated spectator, Green charged the Clippers to leave him alone, burying 2 of his 4 attempts to range range of three points as well as to roll in and reduce the distance whenever he was left alone on the perimeter, or to place himself in the dunker's place just along the baseline and under the ledge, especially when Durant was dubbed at the post.
As mentioned above, Curry became nuclear with the Clippers, his favorite punching bag since the rise of the Warriors at the top of the NBA hierarchy. According to his regular season statistics against the Clippers this year – 32.3 points on a score split of 0.51 / 0.333 / 0.950, as well as a percentage of TS of 69.5% – Curry was to continue his personal tradition of running around in a helpless defense of the Clippers.
The Clippers were in the habit of picking up Curry as quickly as possible, either on the full field or just before crossing the half-court line. The Warriors have adjusted to this tactic by using several high screens to allow Curry to free himself from his defender. In some cases, the Clippers used their big ones in a drop configuration, which prevented them from changing, covering or trapping Curry each time they came out of the screens.
Perhaps the most striking sequence of the Curry evening was his sublime demonstration of ball handling and batting during this possession, where he managed to leave three defenders behind with his individual brilliance.
One of the Clippers' main concerns at the opening of the first match was to find a way to limit Durant, the only factor in the Warriors offense – aside from Curry – able to completely separate the Clippers by himself. The Clippers do not have any face-to-face individual defenseman who has the combination of length and defensive flair to compete with Durant – but again, such a player may not even exist on this world.
The Clippers have agreed with Patrick Beverley on Durant, a pesky defender who, despite his pedigree as a scorer, is at a disadvantage. Hoping to disturb Durant by stifling his base and infiltrating his psyche, Beverley failed to a great extent.
Until Beverley succeeds in convincing Durant to be deported to his side, which is a small victory in itself. Beverley is expendable and he is well aware of it. He is more than willing to reap some technical points if it meant that Durant would earn 2 points himself and would be only 5 far from being suspended from a playoff game.
Anyway, the first game is now in the books, and those who were counting on surprises – perhaps in the form of a monumental disaster and an effort on the part of the Clippers: "We believe" – have surely been disappointed. The match went as planned: a team relying on its highly explosive duo for its bucket source against a team well equipped to take advantage of the lack of defensive identity of his opponents.
Adjustments will certainly be made – maybe Rivers will give up his game plan of putting Beverley in Durant instead of Curry in order to try and smother the double title of most valuable player and the game. Preventing him from taking his pace at the beginning of game 2. Rivers might have to put Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on Durant, which will not be an improvement over Beverley. Gilgeous-Alexander is taller and longer than Beverley, but he is a beginner and someone like him who is inexperienced in the defense of a great scorer of all time as Durant in a high-pressure situation such as the playoffs could be a recipe for disaster.
All things considered, the warriors may be too much for the Clippers at the end. Instead of playing with their food and having fun, the Warriors immediately went for the kidnapping early, placing the Clippers in a choking and never letting go of them.
In the end, the Clippers were forced to submit to an opponent that they found extremely difficult to overcome.
One less victory, there are 15 left.
Stay in gold, Dub Nation.
* All statistics courtesy of NBA.com/stats and Basketball-Reference.com