2014 NBA Playoffs
Coming down to the wire, Game 1 of Clippers versus Warriors lived up to all the hype. Though the flow of the game was constantly tampered with as the referees were whistle happy from start to finish, all involved parties put on a show, with Golden State defeating Los Angeles 109-105. After re-observing the games, here are five thoughts about Game 1 of what could potentially be a long, competitive series between the three and sixth seed of the Western Conference.
Blaming the Clippers loss on Blake Griffin not playing sufficient minutes isn’t an excuse. Yes, the Clippers had a chance to secure the win, blowing it in the waining minutes of the fourth quarter, but it’s hard to get things going when the main cog of your offense has the best seat in the house for majority of the game. Of the 19 minutes Griffin played, three came in the first half due to sitting with three fouls. Blake would eventually foul out with less than a minute left in the game and the scored tied 105-105.
Without Blake, the Clippers offense fell to pieces. That may seem impossible because #POINTGOD, but NBA Stats shows the superstar could only do some much on his lonesome. When Griffin was on the court, the Clippers posted an offensive rating of 136.6, the number dropping by at least 50 points while Blake was saddled to the bench because of foul troubles. David Lee struggled guarding Griffin in the 19 minutes he played on the court. Hopefully, next game the referees will allow the tempo and feel of the game to be set instead of coming out, knowing how they want to dictate things. We could then see 35+ minutes of Griffin attacking Lee, Jermaine O’Neal, Draymond Green, and whoever the Warriors decide to throw at him, all being clear mismatches.
2. Defensive Player of the Year or…?
Last night’s game by DeAndre Jordan, the defense specifically, was a big “F U” to anyone who thought that Jordan should be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate or belongs on an All-NBA Defensive Team. Everyone has bad games, but all the bad we saw from DAJ — and there was plenty — proved that he isn’t a finished product. In the three minutes Jordan sat, the Clippers posted a defensive rating of 86.8 compared to 100.7 when on the floor. He was late on rotations, late on key rotations and late on MORE rotations, reminding you why Vinny Del Negro once relied on Ronny Turiaf, Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin in key moments for defense in the playoffs.
Failing to make a move prior to the playoffs in order to improve the teams overall frontcourt defense, the Clippers opted to grab every available small forward out there regardless of age or injury history. This could hurt the Clippers. Enough to lose the series? Maybe not as Doc Rivers will certainly adjust the way the troops attack the Warriors offense, but things will be a lot harder if Jordan keeps partying like it’s 2012.
3. Shades of 2013 for…
Jamal Crawford. His play in Game 1 was enough to make 2013 playoffs Jamal Crawford disgusted. With everything resorting back to what the team attempted to do in Blake Griffin’s absence, Crawford came up short on offense which is odd. The reserve guard finished 2-of-11 from the field, including some looks that’d J.R. Smith would be pressed to get off, and the Clippers finished with an offensive rating of 70.4 when the Sixth Man of the Year candidate was on the floor, a number that’d make the Chicago Bulls look like the Showtime Lakers on offense. Could it be the injury still affecting his game? He hasn’t openly spoke on the matter, being pretty open about his injuries in the regular season, so that only leaves the door open for speculation Throughout the game, Crawford didn’t seem to be hobbled, but one noticeable aspect was how out of rhythm he was. The Clippers need Jamal to be good to have a chance. It creates a bigger imbalance between the two benches, a key to winning this series.
Side Note: Considering the game “slows down” in the playoffs, those Crawford isolation sets seem more and more like a wasted possession.
4. Doc Rivers Rotations
Between Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson, Rivers is the superior head coach. You couldn’t tell that by watching Saturday’s game. For the first time all season, possibly a by-product of making up offense in Blake Griffin’s presence, Rivers looked flustered, looking for anything that’d work in the Clippers favor. Jamal Crawford struggled offensively while J.J. Redick thrived, but Rivers opted for Crawford down the stretch. Danny Granger was used seldom to guard Klay Thompson or Andre Igoudala as Mark Jackson placed them on the block in order to abuse mismatches. Darren Collison received heavy minutes as the off-ball guy in the two-guard lineup. It was just confusing as the rotations were an area Rivers thrived in all season.
He’ll have a better grasp on Game 2. After 48 minutes of trying to figure things out on the fly, adjusting to the Warriors play and rotations sans-Andrew Bogut, Rivers should be able plan better for the defensive side of the ball. That’s where the game was lost and while you can’t pin everything on Rivers, he deserves a bit of the blame after last night’s lost.
5. Is There Any Room for Jared Dudley
Jared Dudley has been bad this season. His play makes the Eric Bledsoe three-team trade seem like a poor decision. But in this series where the Clippers look to find able bodies to defend the bigger Warrior wings and shooters, Dudley could find a place in this series. There’s a logjam at the forward position and outside of Matt Barnes, nothing is certain in terms of positive production. But who would you rather have on the floor while Danny Granger continues to get himself re-accustomed to the flow of the game: Hedo Turkoglu or Jared Dudley. To me that’s a no-brainer.
Jared has been in the dog house for the last stretch of the season, but Clippers-Warriors has the makings of a series where he shows some sign of hope. His 36% three-point shooting could be used to spread the floor. The Warriors will respect him on the perimeter unless he repeatedly tosses up bricks. That alone makes things better for the Clippers if he can knock-down open, spot-up jump shots. Can’t see how it’d hurt giving him one more chance before permanently banishing him to the end of the bench.
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