Clippers 126 Warriors 115: War

Before this game even started, the Clippers put a halt to the joint chapel session that last year the Warriors and Clippers players attended together. Separate chapel sessions were scheduled instead. If that’s not a declaration of open hostilities, I don’t know what is.

The bad feelings carried over into the game, quite obviously. DeAndre Jordan took exception to a Bogut hard foul. Blake Griffin intentionally stood on Mark Jackson’s foot while taking the ball out (ever seen that before?). Matt Barnes got into it with the Warriors bench while shooting free throws. And newcomer Jared Dudley leveled Curry on a three point shot.

There was bad blood between these two teams already, that began with the Warriors dominating the matchup, and celebrating that domination, last season. But now that hard-nosed Lakers-banner-covering chapel-hating Doc Rivers has taken the reins of the Clippers, and both teams are expected to contend for the Western Conference crown, the hostility between the two teams has exploded.

This is WAR.                         

The Warriors lost this battle, but I’m far from ready to declare a victor in the war. I picked the Warriors over the Clippers in the head-to-head matchup, and in the conference this season, and I’m sticking by both predictions. The Warriors played extremely poorly in this game, due to a variety of factors, but I think they can be expected to play a lot better, and win, the next time these two teams meet.

What were those factors? Well you could point to the road back-to-back, the plane malfunction that required them to fly into LA this morning, tired legs from training camp (Bogut and Lee), extreme rust (Curry), or unfamiliarity with the system (everyone — it’s changed) and new personnel.

But I’m going to put forth a very simple reason that is very familiar to regular readers of this blog: The coaching.

I’m putting this loss on Mark Jackson.

The Coaching: There is a very simple reason why the Warriors owned the Clippers last season: Mark Jackson got the matchups right. Specifically, the matchup on Blake Griffin. Last season, the Warriors guarded Blake Griffin the way the great Rick Adelman guards him: with centers. The rookie Festus Ezeli and the washed up Andris Biedrins tortured Griffin last season. Their length and quickness denied his point-blank looks. He couldn’t bully them, couldn’t get around them, couldn’t pull them out of the lane, had no post moves to use against them.

Meanwhile, David Lee did a great job of blocking the quick but light DeAndre Jordan off the boards. And Jordan has no low post game to punish Lee’s inferior size.

It is a proven, winning strategy.

So why in the world did Mark Jackson get this matchup backwards in this game? You saw the result: Lee did an admirable job holding his position against Griffin in the low post for much of the game, but was eventually forced to use up his fouls. And the much quicker DeAndre Jordan had absolutely no problem going around Bogut for offensive rebounds — Bogut couldn’t find him to put a body on him.

At halftime, the Clippers had 11 offensive rebounds to the Warriors 10 defensive rebounds. DeAndre Jordan had 8 of those offensive rebounds. That’s an embarrassment, and if you ask me, that’s not just on Bogut, it’s on Mark Jackson as well.

Another reason why the Warriors owned the Clippers last season is that they used Klay Thompson to guard Chris Paul right out of the gate. Thompson’s length really bothered Paul’s pick and roll, and mid-range game. But in this game, Jackson inexplicably started Curry on Paul, which not only allowed Paul to get going immediately, but gave Curry two quick fouls. Big mistake.

Thompson was initially effective on Paul, but eventually the already red-hot Paul lit him on fire as well. Which begs a question.

Chris Paul is the Clippers’ best player, by a factor of 10, right? And Andre Iguodala is the Warriors best guard defender, by a factor of 10, right? One of the best wing defenders in the league, right? The guy expressly brought to the Warriors to be a stopper, right? So my question is,

WTF?

Is it too soon to start wondering whether it was Mike Malone who coached the Warriors last season?

Curry: This is just about as bi-polar a performance as I’ve ever seen from Curry. He was horrible guarding Chris Paul in the first quarter. He was fantastic guarding Jared Dudley the rest of the game. Refused to let the much bigger Dudley post him up, forced him into two offensive fouls out of frustration. Demonstrating for the 100th time over four seasons that he’s a much better defender of bigger players than of small. (How many more times does Mark Jackson need to see this demonstrated?)

On offense he couldn’t miss from three. Vintage. But turned the ball over 11 times. Feeding Matt Steinmetz’ fire. And raising grave concerns about the Warriors’ ball handling this season.

Last year when the heat got turned up on Curry, Jarret Jack took over the point. The Warriors might wind up missing Jack for more than just his crunch-time shooting.

Or Curry might be forced to up his game.

Iggy: Iggy looked like the answer to the Warriors secondary ball-handling needs in the Lakers game. He is a superb facilitator. But we saw his limitations as a point guard in this game. He’s not comfortable shooting off the dribble — for good reason. And his free throw shooting can’t be relied upon late in the game — he’s wretched from the line, and clanked two badly in the fourth quarter.

There’s an awful lot to like about his presence in the Warriors lineup, though. Here’s a few things I noticed:

1) His passing ability is going to make Klay Thompson an all-star. Maybe not this season, but soon. If that wasn’t obvious simply by how well he fed Klay in the Lakers game, then it surely was post-game, when he stated: “Klay is my favorite player in the league. I’m going to pass him the ball whenever I see him.”

The difference for Klay between playing with Iggy in the starting lineup, and playing with the black-holish Harrison Barnes cannot be overstated.

2) Curry — Iggy pick and roll. We saw this wrinkle in this game, and it’s a clever one. When Curry got blitzed, it was easy to find Iggy in the middle of the lane with a pass, and from there Iggy can create havoc.

3) Fantastic abilities in the open court. Not just running and finishing, but passing. That two on one with David Lee in the Lakers game was just the start.

Unfortunately, since Mark Jackson’s game plan got the Warriors killed on the boards in the Clippers game, we didn’t see much of Iggy in the open court.

4) The defense. No need to even mention this. He gives the Warriors defense fantastic versatility.

But it’s up to Mark Jackson to put it to good use.

Bogut: For whatever reason, he simply didn’t have it on the defensive end in this game. The matchup was a big part of it. Was he also tired? Sure looked like it.

A few more observations:

  • Ezeli and Biedrins could run with Jordan. Bogut can’t. And his slowness cause a lot of transition matchup confusion for the Warriors in this game.
  • It was great to see Bogut’s toughness in his little tousle with Jordan. But where was his toughness moments before, when he allowed the lighter Jordan to simply back him under the basket? Jordan has zero post ability.
  • His free throws looked better — until the fourth quarter.
  • He still prefers his lefty jump hook to his right. I don’t think that’s going to change.
  • Jackson has almost completely eliminated him from setting high picks for Curry. Which is good in that it makes Curry harder to blitz. But bad in that the Warriors can no longer spread the floor in the pick and roll with Bogut stationed in the box.

Lee: This great player took up right where he left off last season. He was fantastic both in pick and roll and in post ups. Blake Griffin can’t guard him, at all.

He didn’t rebound well in this game, I think because he was so often on the ball, defending Griffin. Weak-side rebounding responsibility fell chiefly to Bogut.

By mid-season, his chemistry with Iggy will be something to behold. We saw the fast break in the Lakers game. In this game, we were treated to a Lee to Iggy alley-oop, from the top of the key.

Thompson: Coming off that phenomenal 38 point performance against the Lakers, Klay didn’t get a single shot up in the first quarter. And got a total of 7 for the game. Anyone else think that was odd? Another thing that perplexed me about Mark Jackson’s game plan.

Particularly since Thompson was being guarded by the much smaller JJ Redick, whom he could shoot over at will. Was there a better matchup for the Warriors to exploit? Other than Lee on Griffin, of course.

Thompson was pretty awful defensively in this game. Why is he such a better defender on the ball than off? He is absolutely terrible at recovering to guard the three point line. Always late.

Green: Also awful. Like Harrison Barnes, he’s a much better four than three. But he got manhandled in this game. Even by Matt Barnes.

Douglas: Also awful. A player who’s is known for brain farts on the offensive end suffered quite a few on defense. Douglas gave several horrible fouls for no reason, 30 feet from the basket while in the penalty, and at the end of shot clocks.

On offense, he’s not a gifted decision maker or passer. If you want to use him, you’ve got to let him look for his shot, like Nate Robinson and Jarrett Jack.

Getting the running game going would be a great boon to TD.

JON: Did not have a lot of success putting the ball in the basket, but it’s worth noticing that he was forced to fight through not one but two big men whenever he posted up.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to get Marreese Speights away from the basket when posting up JON, and give him a chance to move to the middle single-covered? I mean, spreading the floor is what Speights does, right?

Paging Mike Malone.

24 Responses to Clippers 126 Warriors 115: War

  1. A strange game…sometimes exciting, often frustrating. Curry didn’t take care of the ball very well, but I don’t have high concerns. He seemed off tonight (other than shooting).

    Bogut did guard Griffin in the 4th… perhaps too late. Lee gave up several rebounds to Jordan during this time before fouling out, so I’m not sure that match up made much of a difference.

    I’ve said it multiple times now, but the Clippers have to be the most unlikable team in the NBA. Poor character players all around. Are there bigger floppers and complainers in the league than Paul and Blake? They get away with it, so I guess it’s cool, but it cheapens the game. Lee’s 5th foul where Paul pulled him down coming of the screen was pathetic. Same with the jump ball with Curry where Paul only grabbed his arms and didn’t even touch the ball. I hate to even mention the officiating, but the Clippers certainly have mastered the art of ref manipulation. Phantom fouls all night.

    I also don’t understand why Klay wasn’t involved. He often had the weakest wing defender on the floor covering him. After a performance like the previous night, you’d think they’d make a point of at least checking the heat.

  2. Feltbot on the bogut bagging again!dlee great player really? he serviceable but man learn how to box out!

  3. Felt, you make a lot of great points. Can’t wait for March with Ezeli and Barnes both at full speed. We need Ezeli for players like Jordan, McGee and Cousins. And Jackson does need to learn to better force the matchups in his favor.

    I do, however disagree about Green. He was better than awful. At least he got after the boards and got two steals to match his two turnovers. He could have shot better free throws, but you could tell he was gassed when shooting them (needs to practice free throws after running six miles….).

  4. The Warriors problems in this game went way beyond possible match-up problems, as the Warriors bench is terrible outside of JOH.

    And speaking of match-up problems don’t you think Griffin would kill Bogut by posting up high and driving around him or shooting from the outside?

    Barnes return provides partial relief as hopefully then Speights will remain on the bench.

    The Warriors are never going to get consistently good play from Douglas, Green, and Speights. Such inconsistent play places pressure placed on the Warriors starters to perform. Curry and Lee should always be there, less so for Thompson and Bogut. And Iggy simply does not shoot nor score enough to make up for the lack of scoring by the bench players.

    The Warriors need a back-up point guard who can distribute and score, a back-up shooter when Thompson comes out of the game. They need to go out and get such players. Maybe one will be added when the roster is completed. Why the Warriors are starting the season with only 14 players is perplexing.

  5. This was probably the most complete game Chris Paul will play this entire season. 42 points, 15 assists and 5 steals? He was very motivated and he’s healthy right now. The next time the Warriors see him, he will certainly be a bit more banged up and a step slower.

    However, the lack of touches and shots for Klay was concerning. When a guy is as hot as he was in game 1, you have to see what he’s got the next night. I was disappointed not to see more plays for him early in the game.

    Frank, I agree that the bench did not play well in this game. I think this is the reason the Warriors lost, sonsidering Curry’s monster night. Speights and JON took a lot of shots and couldn’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn. Green is still green, Offensively he is a total nomad…and inconsistent, Feltbot, what do you think about the strategy to let JON iso over and over again in the low post.

  6. Since you mentioned it twice in the article, just want to point out that Jordan is listed at 265 and Bogut at 260. He’s not light.

  7. For those interested, NBA.com has has added player tracking stats to their site. I think the shooting stats will prove most interesting:

    http://stats.nba.com/playerTrackingShooting.html?pageNo=1&rowsPerPage=25

  8. One thing I left out of my analysis above was the Warriors’ defense of the Chris Paul high pick. I’m pretty sure they didn’t defend it at all, preferring to leave Bogut back in the lane, which led to Paul going crazy.

    I’m not sure what the Warriors can or will do about this with Bogut on the court, other than try a zone. Pretty clear they had no adjustments in mind last night, though.

  9. Feltbot—

    Any quick insights on the Laker game? Although I suspect we’ll get the same message, in reverse, how a team that hasn’t played together much and its weak links can be dismantled by a focused, determined squad.

    It’s odd to say nearly everyone played poor defense, which suggests the problem is the system itself. A bad scheme, a hole or two, can bring the whole unit down. If Curry is going to guard Paul—or other superior PG’s—there has to be backup containment. I wonder if Curry’s and/or Jackson’s PG ego got in the way. Curry has limitations that will not go away, not any time soon. Adding 10lbs won’t make him faster.

    Better rebounding alone could have changed the outcome of the game, and I suppose it’s heartening they were able to stay fairly close.

    You should be able to make a comparative analysis of coaching, coaches, and strategies tomorrow night, against Malone and Sacramento.

    I still wonder about offense, especially the opening quarter. They don’t want to run Curry hard right out of the gate, but there have to be other options they can pursue. The Warriors won’t be able to play catchup against the better teams all season, as I believe happened often last. Getting behind and not being able to count on subs, playing starters heavy minutes will wear them down and lead to losses.

    I wonder, however, if they shouldn’t follow the advice of Lt. Gen’l Nathan Bedford Forrest (CSA), get there the fustest with the mostest (I understand that isn’t exactly what he said). The Warriors aren’t going to be able to depend on superior size and numbers.

  10. Try watching this without laughing:

  11. Feltbot—

    Since we’ve all moved to stats, like them or not, add a section of links, on the right of the blog, of pages like the one you mentioned @7? It would be really handy.

  12. Santa Cruz Warriors acquire Seth Curry, Dewayne Dedmon and Joe Alexander.

  13. EffBee, I think you’re right, Jackson seemed to blow off the entire concept of creating mismatches last night, and just ran the team’s D position by position. We’ve seen him do that before, though it’s been a while.

    It’s almost as if Jackson were trying to make some kind of statement by intentionally choosing not to trick his way to a win with coaching cleverness. If the Ws had won, it would have been pretty demoralizing for the Clips. But of course ya gotta win the friggin’ game to make a point.

    Other than playing that kind of stupid head game, I can’t imagine any reason why Jackson would not put Iggy on the Clips’ best wing player, especially after he started scorching Curry. Why even hire Iggy if we’re not going to utilize his strengths? I suspect it was at least as frustrating for Iggy as for any Ws fan who watched that mess.

    On a far more cynical note, last night’s game was a home opener for the league’s Anointed Ones, the sole competitive team in America’s #2 TV market (the San Francisco metro area ranks only #6). The team of the NBA’s 2nd most profitable advertising property, Mr. Blake Himself.

    In the past you have cited evidence that NBA officiating can be slanted by marketing demands:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=qjRcTiwVEwo

    The game I saw last night looked too much like that. Paul collects air fouls, Lee get hammered but no call. Paul pulls Lee’s ass into himself, that’s a foul. Curry gets trampled after a shot, no call.

    Can’t read too much into all that. There’s no blatant smoking gun here. Home teams have traditionally had the officiating advantage forever and ever. Just a couple of corrected calls would have made a huge difference, but it comes down to only a couple of calls. Still, if Adam Silver wants his NBA to grow, he better give some thought to its credibility.

    • Leagues can, and do, correct bias and deficiencies in officiating. Major League Baseball made the correct step in unifying the American/National League umpires, for example.

      Why the NBA has not decided to root out homecourt bias has always mystified me. It’s been there a long while and it is obvious. Alienation of home fans? I doubt that would happen.

    • Even worse than the refs was the blatant and constant manipulation of them by the Clippers players. Even DeMarcus Cousins tweeted about flopping during the game (which he subsequently deleted, probably to avoid a fine).

      With such an amazing player as Chris Paul is, it bums me out that he relies on those tactics to gain an advantage. Playing the refs is not playing basketball.

      • “With such an amazing player as Chris Paul is, it bums me out that he relies on those tactics to gain an advantage. Playing the refs is not playing basketball.”

        Totally agree with you in spirit. The purity of sport demands excellence, not artifice.

        On the other hand, winning is winning, losing is losing, and every NBA contest ends with a winner and a loser. In a close contest between well matched opponents, in an entirely artificial game ruled by real-time judgment calls, working the refs IS a part of the game, and doing it well does deliver a winning edge.

        There’s even a sort of excellence in it. For example:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=BEdBDyVk4V8

        That trick could not have been performed better.

        So yeah, the purity of sport demands that the Ws be so unquestionably superior that they would never stoop to such shenanigans. But Pietrus’ little trick worked, and Paul’s theatrics worked last night, and even LBJ has winked at the camera from time to time.

        As much as we all appreciate the purity of sport, the topic here is: an artificially-defined game ruled by judgment calls.

        No one hands out awards for moral victories, just victories. Choose to play the entire game or choose not to contend.

        Working the refs works. Do it if you can. Choose to win, or choose not to. Chris Paul chooses to work the refs to get a winning edge. Can’t blame him for that.

    • my term is ‘faith-based’ for what you’re describing as the preacher’s straight up coaching approach. his faith that his guys just need to play their game better and impose it, instead of relying on the coaches to re-think, formulate counters, or cross match. this is where Malone’s absence could be the difference, despite the p.r. and media repeating how capable the preacher and his staff are.

  14. The fact that the Warriors shot more than 52 percent in each of first two games may portend good things for the Warriors. Agree that the Warriors seemed to have dramatically changed and expanded their offensive system. But garnering more offensive boards than their opponents and committing less turnovers continue to plague them.

    And the ability to get to the foul line more (where they can shoot a higher percentage) will not happen until the roster is upgraded.

    Whether Erman has improved the defense remains an unanswered question mark.

    • if there comes an improvement in the defense (need to see about two months of hoops to know) why would erman get the credit ? iguodala defends a level or two better than jack, and green, still a novice in many ways, is a step up from landry. against some teams, and the sterlings might be one, ezeli could contribute things defensively and on the boards that bogut cannot.

      repeated turnovers puts the defense in a hole — the offense surrenders those points, essentially. defensive rebounding is part of defense, but whether malone or erman is directing the defense, the players the preacher puts out there have to execute. the team had problems defending last season without heavy fouling when malone was on the bench. the turnovers, the offensive rebounds LA gained, and the fouls aren’t exactly up to erman.

  15. Moto: Irrespective of the current roster, I think
    Our eyes will tell us if the installed defensive scenes are better than last year. Last year, there were many uncontested shots inside. Iggy will certainly help, especially if the schemes work. Best. Frank

  16. Pingback: Warriors 111 Clippers 92: The Crossmatch Returns - Feltbot's Warriors Blog

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