2014 NBA Playoffs:
(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
Set the tone.
I can’t think of what else to say about this. Without Andrew Bogut, the Clippers are far-and-away the better team. Offensively, things more fluid and the need to rely solely on two players to contrive points on that end, those days are gone. Defensively, while the Clippers efforts on that end are a bit overrated, piling up great defensive games against poor offensive teams (a.k.a. the Eastern Conference) all while defending in a mediocre manner against solid offensive teams, they’re better than the Warriors without Bogut.
Seemingly, everything comes back to the Warriors not having Andrew Bogut. Without one of the best defensive centers in the middle, that list of advantages open up, all reeling in the Clippers favor. Defending the paint? Won’t do that well. Blake Griffin and company must make advantage from the jump. Controlling the glass? Won’t do that well. DeAndre Jordan could well be the series MVP, averaging nearly 20 boards per game, as close as the league will get to a Wilt Chamberlain-esque performance. What was expected to be a close, seven game series has lost longevity, the Clippers awarded the most here.
In reality, it’s the first step to see if the Clippers are mentally ahead of where they were a year ago. Injuries aside, them squandering a two-game lead to the Memphis Grizzlies still burns in the minds of Clippers fans. But now this unit is supposed to be more mature, mentally steady, taking on the image of their head coach Doc Rivers. That mentally means kill the weak, hunt the prey. Missing their man-in-the-middle, the Clippers should have the mind frame to stomp out the Warriors.
Stephen Curry is going to get his. As the best offensive point guard in the game, you can only hope to contain him, running him off screens to tire him down and just hope that he misses shots he’d normally make. But the rest of this group? Los Angeles has to take advantage.
Avoid the confrontations that are sure to come. These two teams don’t like each other. These two teams know the other openly doesn’t like them. Matt Barnes. David Lee. Blake Griffin. Danny Granger. Draymond Green. Jermaine O’Neal. All guys capable of starting something, but the since this “isn’t a rivalry”, they should be able to ignore any attempts to coerce a technical foul out of the opponent right? Emotions will run high, but the mental leap this team has supposedly made over they year should shine bright in this situation.
Most importantly, SET. THE. TONE. You don’t want to give this Warriors team any hope. We saw what Steph Curry did last year. The team fed off that. The Oracle arena fed off that. They know they’re the underdogs, so they have nothing to lose while the Clippers are in the opposite scenario, with something on the line for everyone.
“Doc Rivers can’t win without the Big 3.”
“How can Chris Paul be a superstar when he’s never been out of the second round?”
“Blake Griffin is a regular season player. Once the game slows down, he can’t carry a team.”
All three statements are reflective of how the mass populous will think of the Clippers. Already, many think the group is a fraud, but a strong postseason, or lack of, could keep the people talking. And for a group that doesn’t shy away from being moved by the quibbles in the streets, everything matters now.
The playoffs is a journey this group should be mentally prepared for. That’s what 82 games was for. Setting the tone for the marathon. Sixteen laps left. Let’s see what this group is made of.