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,
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.