5 Things the Los Angeles Clippers Learned Against the Golden State Warriors
With two of the most dynamic offenses in the NBA, even foul trouble to star players on both teams couldn’t slow the excitement down. However, like most playoff basketball, it was getting stops on the defensive end that determined the outcome.
Tied at 105 with 90 seconds left, both teams struggled to execute on the offensive end. After three turnovers and two missed layups in the ensuing minute, free throws decided the final 30 seconds. After bringing the Clippers back from 11 down, Chris Paul didn’t have any magic left in the tank, missing two vital freebies with 11 seconds left.
With Blake Griffin in foul trouble all game and Jamal Crawford unable to hit anything inside the half-court line, the Clippers never got in a rhythm. Outplayed by a highly motivated Golden State squad, Los Angeles learned some valuable lessons in Game 1.
1. Blake Griffin Needs to Stay out of Foul Trouble
With David Lee nowhere near 100 percent, Blake Griffin can terrorize Golden State down on the blocks. In only 19 minutes of action, he consistently overpowered Lee en route to 16 points.
But staying out of foul trouble will be a struggle for him, as the Warriors have proved to be experts at getting under his skin. In five games this year, he has fouled out twice and committed three technical fouls. And with trash talk before the series coming from Klay Thompson, Griffin must stay levelheaded.
With a plus-nine point differential when Griffin was on the floor, the Clippers need their All-Star forward to play 35-40 minutes every playoff game. Lee had his way on the offensive end against Glen Davis, and that will be a matchup the Warriors continue to exploit if Griffin is on the bench.
As the only true post-up player on the Clippers’ roster, Griffin must remain on the floor to provide a scoring threat in the paint. Without him, Los Angeles’ perimeter-oriented attack is no match against otherworldly shooters Stephen Curry and Thompson.
2. Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison Need to Carry the Second Unit
After losing Eric Bledsoe in the offseason, Darren Collison has filled in the defensive stopper/energy booster void masterfully. But in his first playoff appearance with the Clippers, he shot just 2-of-9 from the floor and had a minus-nine point differential.
Collison’s defense on Stephen Curry was excellent, but on defensive switches, he was often overmatched by Klay Thompson’s size. With only one assist in the game, Collison needs to do a better job of running the offense when Chris Paul is out.
Likely Sixth Man of the Year winner and backcourt counterpart Jamal Crawford was no better, going 2-of-11 from the field. The Clippers’ anemic bench production was a major reason for their double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter.
Competing against the Warriors' high-powered offense, players aside from Paul and Griffin need to step up and score.
3. The Warriors Are Just Fine Without Andrew Bogut
Losing its rim protector and leading rebounder to a fractured rib proved to be no problem for Golden State. The Warriors out-rebounded the Clippers 48-42 and blocked six shots. Expecting to bully their way into the paint, the Clippers quickly learned that the Golden State front line wouldn’t be backing down.
Mark Jackson’s employment of the zone was a clever way to mask matching up man-to-man with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Golden State’s zone baffled the Clippers offense and led to an uncharacteristically low 42.4 percent from the field.
Andrew Bogut's absence was most evident on the defensive glass, where the Clippers grabbed 16 offensive boards. However, the Warriors were able to overcome their defensive-rebounding deficiencies by winning 50-50 balls and grabbing 15 offensive rebounds of their own.
The Warriors are a stronger team with Bogut in the lineup but have the grit and tenacity needed to overcome his absence.
4. Klay Thompson Can Be Just as Dangerous as Stephen Curry
Taking on the impossible task of guarding Chris Paul, Klay Thompson proved that he is up to the challenge. While Paul still scored 28 points, it was not in his usually efficient way. Going 10-of-23 from the field with only eight assists, he was clearly disrupted by Thompson’s blend of quickness and length.
On top of that, he found himself in foul trouble in the second half because of his inability to guard Thompson. No longer just a spot-up shooter, Thompson can put the ball on the deck or post up. He dominating Paul on the blocks thanks to a seven-inch height advantage, and his versatile game created headaches for Doc Rivers’ club.
He didn’t shoot the ball well but still had a tremendous impact on both ends. Despite going 7-of-20 from the field, he still managed to score 22 points, grab seven rebounds and dish out five assists.
With the Clippers focusing most of their attention on Stephen Curry, Game 1 proved that he is not the only game-changer in Golden State’s backcourt.
5. The Clippers Must Play Better Pick-and-Roll Defense
As a potent offense, the Warriors are one of the best three-point shooting teams in NBA history. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson leading the league in made three-pointers, the pick-and-roll has been the foundation for their open looks.
Being afraid of Curry dribbling off screens to launch uncontested three-pointers, the Clippers chose to double-team him. With Curry easily dropping the ball off to David Lee (the primary screener), the Warriors frequently had 4-on-3 opportunities that resulted in open shots.
Doc Rivers must adjust his defensive schemes before Monday’s game. With LA constantly being burned on the double-teams, the best course of action would be to just switch the screen. While this could leave the Clippers susceptible to allowing offensive rebounds, the guards must make the extra effort to box out their opponents.
If the Clippers improve their pick-and-roll defense and get better production from the guys they have relied on all year, this series will be tied heading into Oracle Arena.