Warriors (1-2) vs. L.A. Clippers (1-4)
At Oracle Arena, Oakland
Tonight, 7:30 p.m., CSN Bay Area
Clippers points scored: 94.8
Warriors points scored: 107.0
Clippers points allowed: 100.4
Warriors points allowed: 112.0
Probable starting lineup
PG-Baron Davis (11.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 2.2 steals)
SG-Eric Gordon (18.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals, 46.2 3P%)
SF-Rasual Butler (9.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists)
Or Al Thornton (8.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists)
PF-Marcus Camby (11.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.4 blocks, 1.2 steals)
C-Chris Kaman (22.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks)
Key reserves: Butler or Thornton (whomever doesn’t start), G Sebastian Telfair (5.2 points, 3.0 assists), F Craig Smith (7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds)
Here’s a look at what a rival scout reported about the Clippers in Sports Illustrated’s NBA preview (a portion is about rookie power forward Blake Griffin, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, who is injured):
So much of their success or failure depends on Baron Davis. If he starts the season in good shape and they’re off to a good start, then they’ll be fine, because I do think he’ll show some pride coming off last year’s disaster. But if they struggle or they have more injuries, I don’t see him leading a big turnaround. … Blake Griffin is going to have to refine his shot and his footwork, but he’s going to bring it right away and people are going to notice. He’s able to come off the block, face up and be quick enough to beat people on the drive. He looks like a real man out there, and that’s exactly what they need. They don’t have anybody with that kind of relentless approach. … I was impressed that Eric Gordon was still bringing it late in the year as a rookie, in spite of everything going on around him on that team. … Al Thornton doesn’t create for anybody, because he plays with his head down. He was a major mistake player last year. It was kind of like watching the rebirth of Corey Maggette … DeAndre Jordan is a 21-year-old with real potential. So few bigs have that athleticism and mobility and toughness. He has so much to learn, but in a few years I think he has a chance to make it.
Some excellent points come out of that scouting report, chief among them the analysis of former Warriors point guard Baron Davis. I expected (and still do expect) a big comeback season for Davis, after he flopped in his first season in Los Angeles. Everything I read prior to the season was about how Davis had lost weight, was in great shape, and so I expected the Clippers to be much improved this season. The injury to Blake Griffin hurt, but so far Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby have more than made up for his absence. What has hurt the Clippers most is the play so far this season from Davis. He is shooting 33 percent from the field and 26 percent on 3-pointers, and is scoring only 11.4 points per game. His rebound (3.6) and assist (7.6) numbers are OK, but he is not leading that offense the way I expected. The Clippers, despite a fine start to the season from Kaman, haven’t been great on offense so far this season, averaging about 95 points per game and shooting 46.4 percent from the field as a team. They are a surprisingly mediocre rebounding team and allow more offensive rebounds per game (12.4) than the Warriors (11.7). They also turn the ball over a fair amount (16.2 per game, though the Warriors average 17).
The Warriors can definitely win this game, especially since they’re playing at Oracle Arena. Golden State should be able to win the matchups at shooting guard (Monta Ellis vs. Gordon), small forward (Kelenna Azubuike vs. Butler/Thornton), and the bench. But they’ll have to have a strong showing from Stephen Curry, and another solid game from Stephen Jackson if they want to get their second win of the season.
I guess the elephant in the room is the center position. That is the one spot, barring a huge game from Baron Davis, that could turn momentum the Clippers’ way. Kaman is having a great season and the Warriors aren’t sure what they’ll have at center tonight. Andris Biedrins has a sore back and may not play, Mikki Moore is in line to get the start, and Anthony Randolph is sure to play anywhere from 7 to 25 minutes. How exactly the Warriors plan to neutralize this mismatch will be one of the more interesting story lines for this game.
Repeating a thread from last game day preview, if the Warriors get a win tonight, they’re 1-2 and still looking at a nice stretch where they could build some confidence. The following five games after tonight are against the Kings (1-4), Timberwolves (1-4), Pacers (1-3), Knicks (1-4) and Bucks (1-2).
KEYS TO THE GAME
Crash the boards: This might be a mainstay in the keys to the game section this season. The Warriors are small. They will probably be outrebounded most games. We saw in the Memphis game that the Warriors can give up more rebounds and still win a game comfortably. However, it’s not an area in which the Warriors can ever give up. Look at what happened in the Memphis win. The Grizzlies out-rebound the Warriors 21-9 and lead 29-19 after the first quarter. But, in the final three quarters, the Warriors patch up the holes, grab more rebounds than the Grizzlies (25-24) and outscore Memphis 94-76 in quarters 2-through-4. So it works. The Warriors have to put the effort to keep the Clippers off the offensive boards, and even try and grab a few on offense themselves (the Clippers are susceptible). It could go a long way towards securing a win.
Make your shots: The Warriors are shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 47.2 percent on 3-pointers. The Clippers are allowing opponents to shoot 45.2 percent from the field and only 29.5 percent on 3-pointers so far this season. If the Warriors want to win, they have to control the tempo of the game and run their offense so it creates good shots. If the Warriors shoot their averages, they should win. But if the Clippers can hold the Warriors to 45 percent or lower from the field, and make them misfire on more than 70 percent of their 3-pointers, it’s the Clippers who will probably leave Oracle with a victory tonight.
Play with urgency: Both teams entered this season expecting better than the prognosticators were predicting. Both have stumbled out of the gate (the Clippers to a greater extent than the Warriors). Both are probably looking to prove something, to gain a positive boost in the form of a win that will jump-start their season. The Warriors need to gain the upper hand there. Dive for every loose ball, aggressively attack the basket, make the extra pass, get hands in the passing lanes, get out in transition – basically outhustle the Clippers. The Warriors need every one of these wins against subpar competition early in the season to build a little cushion for more trying times ahead.
Prediction: Warriors 109, Clippers 101