There was a time when the Los Angeles Clippers prided themselves on being Lob City and were one of the most entertaining teams in the league. They still are one of the most fun to watch, but over the last year the Golden State Warriors have surpassed them in terms of entertainment. (If not now, then soon.) They also advanced further in the 2013 postseason than the Clippers, though their regular season record was nine games worse.
Both bolstered their starting lineups in the offseason, though only one team had success with it in their respective season openers against the Lakers. The Clippers got ran off the court by the bench of the newly vamped Lakers while the Warriors blew them out by 31. Now they have an early season matchup against each other in what on paper is just one game, but it could go a long way towards the fight for home court advantage in the West.
Golden State’s a League Pass favorite for reasons other than high-flying dunks; the threes (all 15 of them last night), quick and clever passing from every starter, and their pace of 105.2 (according to NBA.com) they played at against the Lakers. They also have good, recent history on their side, winning three of four against the Clippers last season and shooting 40.9 percent from three in those contests. It was all on display here:
For the Clips, at least the Warriors don’t have guys who generally attack the paint. Golden State took the second-to-last amount of attempts in the paint last season, according to HoopData. But then there’s Andre Iguodala who took nearly 300 shots at the rim last season and made 75 percent of them. Golden State got 28 shots at the rim last night, right in the middle of the league so far, but were 64 percent in that area.
It’s an area of weakness for the Clippers, who allowed the Lakers to go 8-for-12 around the rim in the fourth quarter of their matchup and allowed 34 attempts overall, according to NBA.com. Only the Bobcats allowed more looks around the rim. They also only forced 11 shots from 15-19 feet and only three from 10-15 feet, the former being in the bottom ten and the latter in the bottom five. Those numbers in the dead zones may rise, given Golden State having ace shooters in Stephen Curry and (the less consistent but red hot shooting last night of) Klay Thompson.
If the Clippers can protect the paint, keep their defensive rotations from falling apart, and rebound (where Jordan Hill ate them alive) they should fair a lot better than in their season opener. Preventing offensive boards, which would prevent them from scrambling on defense and giving up a good look from three, could be the most important way to keep Golden State from heating up. That’s where Blake Griffin has to be better than he was Tuesday night when he only rebounded 12.5 percent of defensive rebounds and 9.1 of all rebounds in play when he was on the floor. Those numbers last season: 21.5 and 15.2, respectively.
But the Warriors will also have to deal with the Clippers’ offense that many predicted would be the most efficient in the league. They can morph into Lob City while on the fast break, but their additions of Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick should give the Warriors, an underrated team defensively, a pain in the half court where the Clips have preferred to operate under Vinny Del Negro and likely will under Doc Rivers. It’s also where Chris Paul is deadly in the pick and roll, sixth best in that situation last season, according to Synergy. Having Dudley and Redick around should make pick and rolls even more effective, just one reason why they’re pegged to be one of the most efficient, if not the most efficient, scoring team in the league.
Overall, the Clips are much better than what they showed Tuesday night. It was only one game out of 82 and their problems defending the paint were supposed to be most evident in the postseason. They just happened to run into a Lakers squad, a team discussed all summer about how bad they would be. With that said, every other team should look to beat up the Clippers in the paint and on the boards as long as DeAndre Jordan, Griffin, and their inept frontcourt players off the bench fail to hold the fort down.
They could run into red-hot shooters coming from the Bay area, but the Warriors could also run into a buzzsaw that was embarrassed at the Staples Center. Can the Clippers turn the tables on recent history of a matchup currently not on their side, or will the Warriors make it four-for-five in what’s only the beginning of a tightly contested Western Conference?