Warriors v. Clippers Playoffs Preview: Raise the Variance

Although I have been a vociferous proponent of a more Nellieball approach for this Warriors team, I don’t for a second believe that the Warriors are actually better off without Andrew Bogut. Just want to state that up front for the benefit of those who are determined to misunderstand me.   

There are several reasons, in fact, why the loss of Bogut will be particularly painful in this series against the Clippers. The first, quite obviously, having to do with Blake Griffin. Griffin is a player who demands a crossmatch. When he’s guarded by a center whom he cannot bully inside, he becomes a completely different player. The rookie Festus Ezeli’s defense of Griffin helped the Warriors to  a 3-1 record against the Clips last season. And Bogut was particularly effective against Griffin this season as well. In fact, transformed him into a jump shooter, which is half the battle. The Warriors will miss Bogut badly in this matchup.

Another reason the Warriors will miss Bogut has to do simply with the number of warm bodies the Warriors have left on the front line. Jermaine O’Neal will no doubt start on Griffin — but how long can he go? And for how many games? And after JO, who? I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Jackson kept David Lee away from him altogether, at least until the fourth quarter. Not because Lee can’t guard him — he actually guards him extremely well — but because he’s not fully healthy, and if Lee goes down as well, it’s all over.

I’m guessing that Mo Speights will take the second turn on Griffin. And how he fares will be a fascinating story in its own right. Speights doesn’t give up any size against Griffin. And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t give up any toughness.

Everyone’s favorite ballplayer Draymond Green will certainly get his turn, particularly in the fourth quarter when the Nellieball starts in earnest. But while Green is as tough as they come, he just gives up too much size to be able to handle Griffin for long. Griffin has literally steamrolled Green in the past, and relentlessly bullies him in the paint. Green will fight back, with flopping, steals and hard fouls, but the more minutes he’s forced onto Griffin the greater the risk of fouling out, and worse, injury.

A third reason why Bogut will be missed is that Nellieball is simply not as effective against the Clippers as it is against most big teams. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin change ends as well as any big men in the game. Taking advantage of them in the running game is not easy, let alone running them off the court.

And Doc Rivers might not even prove adverse to matching up small with the Warriors. With Danny Granger and Hedo Turkoglu having been added to Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley, the Clips have all the smallball fours they need.

I will note, however, that the Warriors did beat the Clippers with fourth quarter Nellieball in one game this season. With David Lee at center, and Harrison Barnes at PF, and running Curry/Lee pick and roll with a spread floor.

The one positive that has been created by Bogut’s injury is that it will force Mark Jackson to become a better and more flexible coach. We can expect fourth quarter Nellieball to be a staple of the Warriors strategy in this series. And for that reason, I like the Warriors chances in any game in which their frontline weathers the assault well enough to keep the Warriors close through three quarters.

MATCHUPS:

I don’t see many people getting right the way Mark Jackson will choose to guard the Clippers, so here’s my take:

As mentioned above, I think the Warriors will start big to begin the first and third quarters, and JO will start on Blake Griffin. Followed by Speights.

David Lee will be crossmatched on Jordan, and he generally does a fine job keeping him away from alley-oops and the offensive boards.

Curry might start on Chris Paul, but Klay Thompson will take over for him, because Klay does a superb job on Paul. His length and cleverness are very disruptive of the pick and roll, and Chris Paul’s in-between game.

If Klay guards Redick he will struggle, because it is tougher for him to stay glued to smaller and quicker three point shooters, than it is to pick and roll point guards. Redick has run circles around Klay in previous games.

Iggy should start on Redick, although Jackson might open the game conventionally, with Iggy on Barnes. But as the game progresses, expect Curry to spend considerable time guarding the small forward. If the Clips want to attack that matchup, fine. As Don Nelson said (as he beguiled teams into similar traps), “They can only exploit one matchup at a time.” Curry also happens to be one of the toughest low-post defenders of bigger players I’ve ever seen, and did a great job guarding Dudley in the low post in a previous game.

We can expect the Clippers to do some crossmatching as well when it comes to the Warriors backcourt. I expect to see a lot of Matt Barnes on Stephen Curry, the second best defender on Klay Thompson, and Iggy guarded frequently by the point guard.

WARRIORS STORYLINES:

The Second Unit: The Clippers have destroyed the Warriors second unit all season long, including the last game after the additions of Blake and Crawford. I think this has had a lot to do with poor coaching. Mark Jackson has forced the second unit into a deliberate, halfcourt, extremely iso-heavy style of play. A style of play that is in fact completely unsuited to their talents.

This is one area in which the loss of Bogut might actually prove a boon. With Jermaine O’Neal and David Lee logging heavy minutes with the first unit, Jackson will almost be forced to go small on the second unit. And his favorite second unit post-up player, JO, will no longer be available to him.

Will Jackson finally take the reins off his second unit, and let them RUN? Instead of running post-up after post-up, will he finally take the reins off Jordan Crawford, and let him TAKE OVER?

We will get a solid indication of whether Mark Jackson is going to give the Warriors a chance to win this series, as soon as the second unit takes the floor in Game 1.

Stephen Curry: Curry is one of the top 4 players in the league right now. He is the Warriors’ LeBron, KD, Harden. If the Warriors are going to win this series, Curry has to take over, and come up huge.

The Clippers know this. And we can expect them to try to take him out — to try to cut off the head of the Warriors’ snake. That means…

… Matt Barnes. He might not start on Curry, but he will almost assuredly finish on him. And as we’ve already seen this season, Barnes’ length and quickness give Curry problems.

… And blitzing. We can expect the Clips to try to take the ball out of Curry’s hands altogether. All of the Clips’ centers, Jordan, Griffin and Big Baby, are mobile enough to blitz the pick and roll.

But if there is an upside to Bogut’s injury, it is that Curry will now be playing exclusively with scoring centers. Centers who WANT to shoot, and WANT to roll, and WANT to catch the ball in traffic, and WANT to take the ball to the rack, and WANT to get to the line. Which means Curry and the Warriors have the means to bust the blitz.

Pick and roll, Mark Jackson. Not ISOs. Not post-ups. PICK AND ROLL.

Klay Thompson: The Clippers have a devilish dilemma. They start only one playoff quality defender on the wings, Matt Barnes. If they use him on Curry, they will be forced to guard Klay and Iggy with Chris Paul and JJ Redick. Can that work?

I’m not sure how the Clips will solve this problem. They could very well start Barnes on Klay, and try to hide a smaller defender on Iggy. But that allows Curry to go wild.

One thing is certain, regardless of the matchup, Doc Rivers will do everything he can to prevent Klay from getting open looks at threes. That means Klay will have to be relentless in driving the lane. The Clips will be crowding him, and the drive will be open.

Klay’s explosion of aggressiveness after the all-star break, and burgeoning finishing ability, have justifiably brought him a lot of recent attention. He’s now recognized at large as one of the best two-guards in the league, and a sure-fire All-Star.

You can throw all that out now. This is the playoffs, and it is in the playoffs that the real names are made. The Hall of Fame names.

In last year’s playoffs, Klay let himself get completely taken out of the Spurs series by Kawhi Leonard. Standing on the wings, waiting for open opportunities that never came.

He can’t afford to repeat that performance this time around. If the Warriors are going to beat the Clippers, Klay can’t wait for opportunities. He has to make them happen, and seize them by the throat.

He has to force JJ Redick off the court, and give Doc Rivers sleepless nights wondering about where to assign Matt Barnes.

Andre Iguodala: Iggy is going to have a HUGE series. You can make book on it. Why? Because Iggy is this year’s Harrison Barnes. You remember the Nuggets and the Spurs guarding Barnes with their point guards last year, don’t you? And the resultant explosion of offense that had the ignorati trading David Lee and penciling in Barnes at starting PF? Well, in this series, it is going to be Andre Iguodala who gets the Barnes treatment. Who gets guarded by the point guard.

And Mark Jackson is going to ISO him and post him up. A lot. There is evidence that Iggy is aware of this, and is ready: He’s been much more aggressive looking for his offense in the last few games of the season.

David Lee: It’s so ironic that he’s hobbled now that Bogut is out, and the Warriors need him most to play center. The sublime Curry/Lee pick and roll with a spread floor, buried for so much of the last three years, could be a game changer in this series.

If he somehow makes it to the end.

Draymond Green: He will be crucial to the Warriors’ Nellieball attack, and no one doubts he will play big.

I’m worried about his minutes on Blake Griffin, and whether he can stay healthy. He’s about to take a brutal amount of punishment.

So why am I looking forward to this confrontation so much?

Harrison Barnes: Is Barnes ready to step up and redeem his season? He finally seems to have turned his offensive slump around, and regained some aggressiveness.

If Mark Jackson resorts to Nellieball in earnest, the open floor and fast tempo could do wonders for Barnes’ game. So could giving him minutes at PF, and forcing the Clips to guard him with their point guards.

Mo Speights: There’s not an insignificant chance that Mokur could not only be the Warriors’ starting center, but also their last big man standing, by the time this series comes to a close.

But whether that calamitous occurrence arises or not, Mokur is going to get the opportunity of a lifetime in this series.

Which good or bad, will make for some fascinating viewing.

Go Mokur go!

Jordan Crawford: One of my keys to the series. That 40 point explosion in the last game showed you what he’s capable of when unleashed. But will Mark Jackson unleash him?

He should, for more than a few reasons. Crawford unleashed, with the ball in his hands, is the best version of Crawford. And Crawford simply taking over the second unit is the best version of the second unit. By far.

And the best winning strategy for an inferior team (if that’s what the Warriors are) to beat a superior team, is to RAISE THE VARIANCE. Up the tempo, scramble the game, get as many shots up as possible, and as many threes up as possible. Which also happens to be this Bogut-less Warriors team’s best and most authentic style.

Free Jordan Crawford, Mark Jackson. Raise the variance. Give the second unit a chance.

Give the Warriors a chance.

Jermaine O’Neal: In the back of his mind is the thought that if he can keep himself healthy, the Warriors can win a championship. You know it’s there.

He will start, and he will be matched up against Blake Griffin on defense.

On offense, JO will be guarded by DeAndre Jordan — the Clips won’t crossmatch. Mark Jackson must somehow restrain himself from posting JO up. It simply won’t work — Jordan ate JO alive in the post this season.

Pick and roll, Mark Jackson. Pick and pop, even. Pull Jordan out of the lane. Open the floor. Break the Curry blitz.

It’s going to be a battle of attrition for this old warrior going head to head against the monster that is Blake Griffin in his prime. He hasn’t had a great track record staying healthy in the last five years. But he’s going to be greatly aided by the significant time off between games in this series. (Three days off between games 2 and 3?) Can he weather the physical assault? Can he do it for 6 games? Because of his age, this will be the most demanding physical test of his career.

We’re about to find out whether this great warrior has enough left in the tank to become a Warrior great.

But if by some miracle he, and David Lee, and Draymond Green, are all still standing tall when crunch-time in Game 6 rolls around…

Well then, Believe.

33 Responses to Warriors v. Clippers Playoffs Preview: Raise the Variance

  1. WheresMyChippy

    Brilliant writing..

    I didn’t think I could possibly be MORE excited and giddy in anticipation of this series, but boy that last paragraph did it.

    This is going to be WAR. Don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight..

    • Ditto on the brilliant writing! If Jackson can be half that inspiring with his coaching, it will be a hell of a series.

  2. Smart and sobering, Feltbot.

    Is Armstrong on the roster? I have a nagging suspicion, after his spirited play against flagging Denver, that he might get minutes, in fact get minutes over Speights. And Speights, for whatever reason—altitude?—looked off in Denver.

    You memory and perceptions are better than mine. Did they try to run against the Clippers this year? My sense is that they can’t withstand the pounding 1st. and 3rd. quarters, and that they’ll be forced to play catchup, a trial at best with the subs. My hope is that Green offers greater mobility on defense and offense, which along with team rebounding, might help push the pace and open a few fast breaks. Can anything be learned from the Phoenix/Clipper games? The Suns were 1-3, but most of the games close, and they don’t have front court size and toughness. They do, however, have good size and versatility in the Morris bros.

    But I suspect Jackson has a saying about changing course in adversity, in fact I think we’ve heard it. So much about this game has already been decided.

    I will throw up the first time they post up Lee or O’Neal.

  3. NOT Bogut bashing here. Bogut also put up 17, 10, and 14 points in the first three Clipper games. We haven’t seen numbers close to those in over a month. They’ll need all the scoring they can get, and something to push the Clipper front court.

    My only point here is that I wonder what kind of shape Bogut would have been in without the rib injury. Hard to believe something else isn’t going on we haven’t been told.

  4. Finishing a thought and anticipating the spin on this series, which will be completely off. If only Bogut had played. . . .

    It will miss the real problem with the team.

    Bogut will be missed, but I’m only slightly less skeptical they win with him, because of his offense, his mobility, and other issues. I’m scanning Clipper losses for comparisons, and of course there aren’t many, but this one stands out:

    http://espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400489673

    The Spurs controlled the game all the way and won handily. The Clippers played full strength, the Spurs without Parker. But the Spurs have depth, balance, and discipline. Blake got his boards and points—35—but just about everyone else was contained. And what tipped the scales that night?

    Patty Mills, 25 points, 5 boards, and 5 assists.

    The team’s real problems lie not with the center, but elsewhere. Which I believe is how I began the season.

  5. From ESPN:

    “Jackson said Friday that he wants O’Neal to start because it’s easier for the 35-year-old veteran to stay loose that way. He also says O’Neal provides a similar skillset to Bogut, who is out indefinitely with a fractured right rib.

    “The Warriors will use smaller lineups with David Lee or Marreese Speights at center and Draymond Green or Harrison Barnes at power forward when O’Neal is not in the game.”

    No surprises here.

  6. cosmicballoon

    Great writeup Feltbot. Barnes is going to do nothing in this series. He hasn’t performed all year. There is no reason for him to start now. Same with Iggy. His outside shot has been horrendous since the AS break, and I winder if he can ‘turn it on’ on the offensive end.

    However, the loss of Bogut may free the Warriors and the beat lineups should see the most time on the floor together. Go dubs!

  7. Terrific analysis on match-ups, but Clippers have too deep a bench and can stay with us playing small ball. Can’t see us shooting a higher shooting percentage. from the field. The Clippers should also beat us by winning extra possessions on the offensive boards that are not likely to be offset by our committing less turnovers. But if some players go-off, anything can happen.

  8. From the Blue Man:

    “Lacob has made it clear that his expectations for the Warriors are to reach at the very least the Western Conference finals. A possible failure to get out of the first round will likely lead to Mark Jackson’s job and some possible major roster moves.”

    http://bluemanhoop.com/2014/04/10/warriors-owner-joe-lacob-has-seen-and-won-with-instability-before/

    • Absolutely not true. Lacob has consistently REFUSED to mention any specific targets for the team, even when asked directly.

      One possible reason for Lacob’s reticence might be to permit him more latitude in any off-season decision about coach Jackson’s future. However there are lots of other possible, and perfectly practical, reasons for it. It would be a PR distraction. It would be a player distraction. It would put Lacob back in the spotlight, at a time when he wants Curry’s face there.

      I really hate it when a so-called reporter makes up stuff.

      • Perhaps the reporter was responding to Lacob’s recent comment:

        “. . . all I can think about it is, we have to win a championship.”

        Not necessarily put in the context of Jackson. But he also said this in his interview with TK:

        “And the goal was to get into the top four in the West and get home-court advantage in (the first round of) the playoffs.”

        Which is pretty specific.

        • Those were general goals, not specific to Jackson’s job review. No way has Lacob ever thought the Ws were going to win a championship this year.

  9. H Barnes is the same player he’s always been, unchanged from Day 1. This season wasn’t a “slump,” it’s what happens when all the other teams find out what works on a player. 30 points against a semi-pro lineup is layup practice, not an offensive explosion. Barnes still can’t make a shot with a hand in his face. If the team needs production from Barnes to win, the series is already over.

    Ditto Jordan Crawford. With his reliance on “creative” (i.e. low percentage) shots, he’s not going to single-handedly save the 2nd unit from a thrashing. They only have a chance if Crawford, and the 2nd unit as a whole, plays more team ball.

    I haven’t checked the numbers, but I’m pretty sure Speights has the highest fouls-per-min. of anyone on the team. Defending Golden Boy Griffin, Speights’ time on court would top out at about 15 minutes. Expect Jackson to protect Speights by having him defend the C, with every other big taking turns on Griffin.

    Maybe, hopefully, Ezeli is finally ready for some court time. That probably won’t happen, but it sure would help. Griffin can’t bump-move Ezeli or shoot over him easily.

    Draymond has a high average fouls-per-min. rate this season, but most of that comes from his 20 min./game era. When he knows he needs to play more, he fouls less often. On the season: 2.8 fouls/game in 21.9 minutes. Last 10 games: 2.9 fouls/game in 28.3 minutes. So I don’t think he’ll foul out against Griffin, but I also don’t think he’ll even attempt to stop easy Griffin baskets. If Griffin has the ball within 4 ft of the hoop, he is going to score. Green’s best defensive strategy against Griffin is to body up early and hard, try to move him out, then try to deny him the ball. Consistent effort, constant irritation. This is going to be a fun couple.

    Most teams don’t shoot 3-pointers well against the Clips, but Curry sure has: .586 on the season! And Thompson ain’t no slouch either, at .429. The problem has been getting open looks, not making them. Curry has averaged only 7.3 3-pt attempts against them, and Thompson only 5.3. Rivers has even publicly praised his team for their ability to chase those two off the 3-pt line.

    Those figures were with Bogut logging big minutes, though. Playing Green instead, expect the Ws 3-pt shooting to be more of a factor. Green sets better picks, and lots more of them. His work freeing up Curry has been especially great. For the entire season, Curry averaged 7.9 3s per game @ .424 shooting. In April, playing more with Green, Curry has averaged 8.3 3s per game @ .470 shooting.

    It’s worth noting that Green averaged only 16.3 minutes/game against the Clippers this season. In this series, with no Bogut (and no silly elbows), he’ll play a whole lot more, especially if Jackson goes to Nellieball. Despite his limitations (size, scoring, etc.), Green is going to be extremely important in this series.

  10. In the ESPN pre-game injury report, why are Klay, Steph, Lee, O’Neal, Iguodala, and Green listed as day to day?

  11. thanks once more felt boss, this is the best written preview on any of the blogs. potential sources for an upset — LA will concede some of the woeyrs cast shots from certain areas [barnes of course an obvious candidate but about half the team with long 2 pt. attempts]. whether they get burned sufficiently to make a difference even for a single game might help turn things. transition offense, of course, even just for part of a pivotal game. the team must also avoid getting baited on both ends of the court — easy scores for the sterlings result from over helping or inattention off the ball on d, or turnovers converted into fast breaks, from those passes from the paint to the perimeter the woeyrs will be sure to attempt.

  12. End of Q3, Green is +12, highest on the team.

  13. Sheesh.

    Just as I was gathering warm feelings for Jackson, he damn near gives this one away.

    We should have expected a closely called game, which worked to our advantage. It broke up the Clipper rhythm and kept key players on the bench.

    Simmons made the point pre-game that you need to mix it up with the Clippers and not be predictable. Give them a little chaos. The Warriors have a decided advantage not mentioned: collectively they are smarter and more mature on the court. And they can think on the run.

    Chaos Jackson cannot handle. After a nicely managed third quarter which led to the lead, what does Jackson do? He gives them predictable.

    YOU CANNOT CONTROL MANAGE A TEN POINT LEAD AGAINST THE CLIPPERS FOR A FULL QUARTER.

    And the Clips get back in the game.

    Do anything to mix it up. Put the subs in, Blake, Speights, and Crawford and try to turn Crawford loose. They did fine first half. Put Amrstrong in as well—he shows good energy on the boards. They could not have done any worse, especially with Griffin on the bench.

    And give the starters a rest. Even if it doesn’t work, the subs can burn a few minutes and let the starters come back fresh, this time with an offense that is energetic (Simmons noted their low energy offense).

    It’s going to be a rough week.

    • Damned if you win, damned if you lose?

    • the sterlings revived in the fourth with two strong contributions from the preacher — green was on the bench until the final minutes after the lead was gone, and the offense was put into sleep mode for 6-8 min.

    • cosmicballoon

      While you are right rgg, it would serve you well to lighten up a bit. LA also started running hard during the 4th and against the Warriors sub’s, the game might have totally turned against the W’s.

      Paul made some big 3s, but Reddick and Jamal Crawford didn’t do anything in the 4th. Nicely done mixing zone and man to man down the stretch to keep the Clips off balance.

      My only beef would be with Green missing 2 free throws that would have iced the game. Jackson’s strategy to foul was basic, but the correct one while the W’s were up 3 down the stretch.

      Felty, CP3 and Collision guarded Curry primarily, and Matt Barnes was a nonfactor.

      A great way to start the playoffs!

      • Lighten up with this team? How? Was I the only one who felt we were going to lose this one a few minutes into the 4th. quarter? We’ve been here before.

        But if the subs have anything to offer, they need to find out, and this would have been a good time. If they’re looking ahead, they are going to need them. Crawford may tip the scales one game. And if nothing else, the starters at least needed a quick blow, now and later.

        I’m sure the refs and NBA will review this one—two main starters fouled out and many in foul trouble early. Expect things to loosen up and get rougher.

        And that’s what the Warriors need to be prepared for, those unhampered bursts. They may well need to scramble for points, and they’ll need help from the bench.

        Of course I was happy about the win.

  14. Wow.
    Feels like catching postseason litghtening in a bottle again..
    Even Harry Barnes keeping his composure.

    CP3 and Blake are great players (especially Paul),but honestly, Steph, Iggy, DLee, Klay and Draymond are all better basketball players than the Clips’ third best player, whomever that may be.
    Ya Gotta Believe!

  15. Play of the game:

    • I’m curious. If 20,000 Oracle fans responded in kind and threw their drinks at Griffin, what would happen? Would all 20,000 be asked to leave? Would the Warriors be assessed 20,000 technicals? Or would they have to forfeit the game? In the last case, wouldn’t it almost be worth it?

  16. @ 14, moto,

    Totally agree. Why was Barnes in instead of Green, in Q4? Green is a better shooter than Barnes this year (.406 v. .399 for Barnes), plus all the other stuff he brings that Barnes doesn’t.

    Green even shot better in this game than Barnes, had 4 assists, stripped Chris Paul in crunch time, had 2 blocks, came up with bigtime rebounds instead of Barnes’ gimmes, and disrupted the Clips offense in dozens of ways Barnes can’t even imagine. WTF.

  17. with this game and the Min comeback earlier in the week, green and lee might have saved their coach’s job. lacob could also make lame duck stew by deferring his decision over the summer, but that doesn’t quite fit with his p.r. sensibilities, factoring in the inevitable rumors that jackson is wanted to coach elsewhere. signed to an extension, jackson might actually gain trade value, with the team lacking assets in the near future.