(1) GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS (8) L.A. CLIPPERS
Game 1 Time: 7:15 PM CST (ABC)
Line: GSW -13
Odds c/o 5dimes
Everyone is quick to assume “Sweep” in both 1 vs 8 series and anything involving the Golden State Warriors, but there are ample reasons to suggest that the Los Angeles Clippers can, at least, pose a formidable threat in this opening-round Western Conference series. The Warriors are rightfully heavy favorites, but in no way will this veteran Clippers team simply roll over in awe of the repeating NBA champions. Let us take a moment to examine what will define this series.
For starters, it is impossible to begin this preview without due mention of the rather impressive season that was once again put together by Stephen Curry. While his scoring was roughly three points lower than his MVP campaign, his efficiency and passing numbers were right on pace—and the Warriors still rolled through the regular season to a No. 1 seed. It is hard to bypass on the sustained brilliance of Curry and his teammates, even if this was a season sparkling with plenty of turmoil between those teammates: It is more than clear that Draymond Green and Kevin Durant are not friends. It is also becoming pretty clear that Durant will be heading elsewhere in free agency this offseason, but for the moment, this is still a formidable team even if it does have some hiccups in its team chemistry.
Durant is probably the best scoring wing player in NBA history: His efficiency is off the charts, and his length makes him entirely unstoppable. Not only is Durant’s mid-range jumper literally never blocked, but he nails down it and the triple at a high clip and makes his impact on games quickly. Not fading in the clutch, he won the Finals MVP award last years as the Dubs concluded its third title in four seasons. Ideally, Durant would like to conclude it with a fourth in five seasons before taking his talents elsewhere, and there is little reason to suspect that he is already looking past the NBA playoffs to free agency. He and Curry represent arguably two of the league’s top four or five scorers and putting them with the collection of talent that surrounds them commands a margin of respect and success.
The only question is whether there is so much talent that the Warriors can overcome the little forces that have divided it throughout the season. Golden State trailed the Denver Nuggets the majority of the season in the standings, and despite having a better small forward than its 73-win season (which featured Harrison Barnes where Durant currently lines up), the Warriors did nothing close to eclipsing the success it had before it added Durant. That should be looked at closer than it is, probably.
The Clippers erstwhile continued to evolve at the trade deadline while already proving plenty successful. Despite experiencing great success as a Clipper, Tobias Harris was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers and Landry Shamet was obtained to start in his place. Danilo Galinari slid to the 4-spot, where is he better suited as a defender. Ivica Zubac became the starting center, and sixth man Montrezl Harrell had a monster breakout season.
The result is that the team is now acquiring some young pieces to place around the emergent talent that is point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The rookie from Kentucky made an immediate impact and is a clear future star at his position. He starts next to another point guard in Patrick Beverley, but Bev’s tenacity enables him to guard much larger players. Behind these two in the lineup is the play of reserve Lou Williams, who even at his advanced age is one of the league’s premier bench scorers. The Clippers do not have the vaunted names, the star power of the Warriors— nor even a fraction of its talent.
But the Clippers are still a dangerous postseason team. It is just not so dangerous when aligned against the Warriors who feature an All-Star at all five positions. The Clippers meanwhile are nearly bereft of All-Stars past or current, but it is a team that plays with good chemistry and has some surprising depth. Even so, the Warriors should have few problems sweeping this series clean, 4-0 Dubs.