Typically, there aren’t that many upsets in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but this isn’t a normal year in the NBA.
The first-round match-ups are intense and several upsets may be in the making. At least three series are going to a game seven.
One of those series featuring a ‘win or go home’ situation is No. 3 L.A. versus No. 6 Golden State. It’s the typical Nor Cal, So Cal battle, but not with the teams typically associated with that rivalry. The days of the L.A. Lakers and Sacramento Kings rivalry are long gone, but now California becomes divided once again.
The Warriors enter as the underdog while the Clippers are trying to prove they have the pieces to go deep into the playoffs.
Here are the three keys for each team if they want to move on to the next round.
1. Maintain an inside post presence
With Jermaine O’Neal out due to injury, the Warriors choices for post players get smaller and smaller. The Clippers have a great duo in the post in Blake Griffin and D’Andre Jordan. Blake Griffin is averaging 28.3 points in wins compared to 18.0 points in losses. Jordan has also been crucial, grabbing 22 rebounds in game three and scoring 25 points with 18 rebounds in game five, both of which were victories for the Clippers. If L.A. can expose the Warriors inside and dominate the points in the paint category, L.A. will be very tough to beat.
2. Stay disciplined defensively
The Warriors are 3-1 in this series when they reach the 100-point plateau. Doc Rivers put a bigger emphasis on defense when he came to L.A. The Clippers need it now more than ever. L.A.’s biggest target should be Curry. Stop him and the Warriors are not the same team. However, the Clippers also need to get back in transition. In game four’s loss, the Clippers gave up a season-high 27 fast-break points.
3. Get out to a hot start
The team that has gotten off to the quicker start and taken a lead entering the second quarter has often gone on to win the game. The Warriors are a very streaky team that feed off of momentum. If the Clippers can set the tempo, Golden State is less likely to light it up offensively. And if you hold the Warriors offensively, you’ve got a good chance of winning.
1. Keep the turnovers low
The Warriors lead the league during the NBA playoffs in turnovers with 17.2 per game. Still a young team lacking a ton of experience, finishing down the stretch has been a thorn in the side for Golden state in the past. Turnovers has been one reason for that. The last couple games have shown improvement from Golden State, so the Warriors need to continue to value the basketball. The Warriors still want to play up tempo, but playing a clean game will certainly help give them a chance to advance.
2. Let Curry shine
Curry ranked seventh in scoring to end the regular season and is currently second during the playoffs in threes made. He can make shots with a hand in the face all over the court. While Curry can create, facilitate and get in the lane, he’s one of the best pure three-point shooters this game has seen in a long time. The bottom line: Curry needs to get shots for this team to win.
3. Take advantage of Iguodala’s match-up
Iguodala was a huge gain during the offseason for the Warriors. He’s a versatile player with great athleticism and brings a defensive presence to an offensively focused team. This is a match-up Golden State needs to expose. Iguodala is hard to stop in fast break scenarios due to his athleticism and has the height to take smaller guards in the half court. He can play a point-forward for the Warriors if needed too. Overall, his veteran leadership could lead the Warriors to the next round.