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Brad Hurt

Close call: Grizzlies rally for sweep posted by Brad Hurt

It was anything but easy, but the Memphis Grizzlies outlasted the Golden State Warriors, 88-81 in overtime on Wednesday night to complete a perfect West Coast road trip.

The comeback happened largely thanks to the team's Grit N Grind mentality.  After spotting the home team a double-digit lead in the opening quarter, the Grizzlies (7-5) relied on strong defense to get back into the game.  They had to overcome a 12-point deficit in the second half to escape with their 11th consecutive head-to-head win over the 8-4 Warriors.  They won the third quarter 25-13 behind a 17-2 run led by Zach Randolph's eight points in the period.  Randolph finished with another double-double of a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Ball control played a huge part in the win as the Grizzlies turned the ball over only seven times.

The Grizzlies shot only 38 percent for the game, led by Marc Gasol's 6-of-14 effort.  Gasol added 11 rebounds to his 18 points to join Randolph with a double-double.  His pair of free throws with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter forced the game into overtime.  Mike Conley also finished in double figures scoring for the Grizzlies, scoring 19 points and draining the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime.  The Grizzlies' bench came up large, outscoring the Warriors' reserves 16-7.  Kosta Koufos led the Grizzlies subs with seven points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Andrew Bogut led the Warriors with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

This trip proved the Grizzlies can compete with some of the top teams in the West.  It is never easy to win away from home, and putting together a streak like this shows the character and fight this team has.

Continue reading "Close call: Grizzlies rally for sweep"


Brad Hurt

Grizzlies seek first road sweep since '04 posted by Brad Hurt

The Grizzlies have reeled off three straight wins on the road since falling at home to Toronto last Wednesday.  West Coast trips are usually daunting, but the Grizzlies have found ways to win to this point.  Their current trip reaches its conclusion tonight in Oakland as the Grizzlies (6-5) take on the Pacific-leading Golden State Warriors (8-3), winners of four straight.  So someone will see a streak end.  If the Grizz get the win, they will have their first road sweep of at least four games since March 2004.  The Warriors are 5-0 at home this season, a mark the Clippers also had before falling to the Grizzlies on Monday.

The Warriors boast five players averaging double figures in scoring at this point in the season, led by Klay Thompson's 20.5 points per game.  Sensational guard Stephen Curry is a close second with 19.9 points per game.  Curry, who usually gets top billing as the team's superstar leader, will miss Wednesday's game with a concussion.

The Grizzlies have seen good balance offensively.  Mike Conley is off to a good start, scoring 18.7 points and dishing out around six assists per game.  As he has gone over the past few years, so have gone the Grizzlies.  He seems to be over the confidence issues and inconsistency that plagued him a couple of years ago, when trade rumors surrounded him.  Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have been key for the Grizzlies, continuing to comprise one of the biggest post tandem threats in the league.  Gasol is putting up 17 points and seven rebounds per game on the season.  However, on this trip he is scoring over 20 points per game with 8+ rebounds and 8+ assists.  Randolph is leading the team with 9.2 rebounds per game while scoring 16.1 points per contest on a career-high 55 percent shooting clip.

Continue reading "Grizzlies seek first road sweep since '04"


Charles Bisbee

NBA Anarchy posted by Charles Bisbee

The NBA is completely bonkers right now. With less than two weeks until season’s tip-off, players are being flipped faster than flapjacks at IHOP. Chris Paul has been perfecting his start-and-stop from the comfort of his living room. Dwight Howard can't seem to decipher his own feelings about the Magic. Lamar Odom, as collateral from the Paul fall-out, whined his way to the Mavs, who were spurned earlier in the week by Tyson Chandler (Knicks). Chauncey Billups took his frequent flier miles to the Clips (though he could be dealt again by the time I finish this sentence) and Big Baby was swapped for Brandon Bass.

Wait, there's more! The Celtics thought they had Baby's replacement in David West (Paul’s former right-hand man) but the Pacers swooped in and snagged him for a cool $20 mil. Consequently, the Hornets are trying to fill out a roster with Quincy Pondexter and a collection of ball boys. Vinsanity joined Odom in Dallas, which lost Caron Butler to the Clippers, which matched Golden State’s absurd, $43 million qualifying offer to DeAndre Jordan (he with the career 5.9 ppg). T-Mac, Rip Hamilton, Chris Wilcox, Mike Bibby and Dunleavy are on the move as well, though these names seem like afterthoughts compared to the seismic activity higher up. 

And all this happened in slightly over a week. It’s certainly enough to make the casual fan's head spin. The ramifications of this unforseen, pre-season turbulence on the regular season, though, is what really boggles the mind. With little time to mesh, little time to prepare, and a season packed tighter than Delta coach, teams should be in for a wild ride. We're staring down the barrel of the most slapdash, unforseen and chemistry-bungled season since, dare I say, 1998! Should be a wild ride. 

Continue reading "NBA Anarchy"


john howard

Bucks trade Gadzuric, Bell for Maggette posted by john howard

The Milwaukee Bucks traded Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzurik to the Golden State Warrios for Corey Magette.

 This is a good move for both teams and potentially a great move for Milwuakee.

Golden State is changing ownership and wants to get a younger nucleus to build around.  The Trade of Magette rids the team of $31 million for the next  3 years. 

As far as the Bucks go, this was a good move for a couple of reasons. One, if John Salmons leaves, then they have his replacement.  But, if they can resign Salmons, there is a lot more firepower for this team.  The Bucks made the playoffs and had a good showing without their top inside threat in Andrew Bogut. 

Small news, but could be a big deal.

Continue reading "Bucks trade Gadzuric, Bell for Maggette"


Amari Harris

Humpday Huddle posted by Amari Harris

I’ve been extremely busy lately so I haven’t had as much time to write, but I have wanted to weigh in on a few topics before the week is over and hopefully I can come through with a column for tomorrow.  Let’s be random…

 

Did I hear that correctly?  Appartently the Golden State Warriors turned down a trade that would have netted them O.J. Mayo and Nasheen Thabeet for Monta Ellis…craziness

 

There are a lot of interesting rumblings coming out of the 2010 Draft/Combine.  Tim Tebow is working on changing his throwing motion.  This is one of the more intriguing stories of the draft.  It is easy to root for Tebow because of his faith and his character but I just don’t see him being an effective NFL quarterback.  NFL defenses are too fast, too smart and too powerful for a guy who dominated the college ranks with those same traits.  His passing ability is very suspect because of that long wind-up release.  The transformation that he’s attempting will be very difficult as he has thrown with the same motion for the last 20 years.  Some people try to compare Tebow to Vince Young, but VY has demonstrated the tools and ability to excel on the NFL level.  Young does everything Tebow does, but way better.  This should be an interesting development and I’m sure there are GMs and teams out there that can make this marriage work, but I would stay away from this guy for the most part.

 

Free Agency is upon us and there are some pretty sexy story lines surfacing as the off-season progresses.  Julius Peppers will be the hottest free agent on the market despite being 30 years old and having questionable work ethic.  Peppers seems to be a bit selfish as he is looking for the biggest pay day and he doesn’t play the run very well.  Under the right conditions, Peppers could be a defensive MVP. I’m not sure those conditions exist right now however.  Many people are speculating that Peppers would go to the Patriots, but I don’t see the economics being there, and the Patriots have a lack of leadership on the defensive side of the ball…Peppers won’t help.  I’d be more inclined to see Peppers as a Jet or Charger.  These teams have shown promise for years to come and Peppers could be the missing piece for each team.  I also wouldn’t write off the New Orleans Saints.  This is a team that thrived off of turnovers this past season and Peppers is a turnover specialist.  I think he would be a good fit in their hybrid defensive packages that Greg Williams’ deploys.

Continue reading "Humpday Huddle"


Sabrina

Welcome Back Rip! posted by Sabrina

For starters, welcome back Rip Hamilton! With an impressive 18 points this game against the Golden State Warriors, Rip made sure his return was not overseen. Although Rip was the talk of the game, Rodney Stuckey was the point leader with an impressive 29 points this game.

Rodney Stuckey has proven that he is not a rookie anymore. He is much more consistent in his shot and now has found a place as a leader of the team. This team has definitely changed since winning the 2004 Finals, but it's a great way to start over. Stuckey has found his place and so have Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. The three rookies all had playing time this game and showed that they have potential. Jonas Jerebko had a few amazing plays, shots and assists, and Austin Daye showed his confidence as he took a chance when he scored tonight. Jerebko and Daye are shining, but Dajuan Summers seems to be left behind. It's a question whether his lack of playing time is due to his lack of skill or adjustment to the NBA, but Jerebko and Daye are taking the spotlight.

A big question in mind was if the chemisty of the team would be broken when Rip and Tayshaun come back, but Rip has shown anyone with doubt that the Pistons can adjust and work together as a team. With Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince still out, the Pistons were able to extend their winning streak to a 5 game streak. The expected date for Ben Gordon and Tayshaun's return have not been confirmed, but it seems like they will be playing soon. Tayshaun, please come back soon. I've been saving you on my fantasy basketball team haha. The Pistons may see a positive change with all their injured players back in the line up, bringing the Pistons back to their full potential.

Continue reading "Welcome Back Rip!"


Scott Shepherd

That Guy Scored 50?? posted by Scott Shepherd

A few days ago I posted a blog listing the best scorers in the NBA today that have yet to have a 50-point scoring game.

While researching that post, I had an even more interesting idea for a post.

It’s a list of guys who, unbelievably, had a 50-point game in their career.

Since I was using www.basketball-reference.com to research the list, we’re only going back to the 1986-87 season. It’s far enough back in time to make some of the guys on the list obscure, but not far enough back to where you won’t remember them.

In no order, here are some of the more random players to score 50 points in an NBA game over the past 24 seasons.

Vernon Maxwell

Before Ron Artest and the “Malice at the Palace”, there was Vernon Maxwell running into the stands and punching a fan. While “Mad Max” will be remembered most for that, he also finds himself in elite company as one of only 60 players to score 50 or more points in a game since the start of the 1986-87 season.

Maxwell may be most remembered for his volatility, but at one point he was very dangerous on the court as well. He dropped for 30 points in the fourth quarter on January 26th, 1991 against the Cavs en route to a career-high 51 points.

Charles Smith

The former number three overall pick had a solid first few seasons with the Clippers, but a series of knee injuries cut his career short after a few other stops. For his career, he averaged 14.4 points per game.

Though he never developed into a big time NBA player, Smith dropped 52 on the Nuggets in December of 1990. It was the only time in his nine year career the Smith scored more than 40 points in a game.
Continue reading "That Guy Scored 50??"


Scott Shepherd

Fun With Box Scores posted by Scott Shepherd

Every Monday, with the assistance of the good people over at www.basketball-reference.com, I like to take a look deep into the statistics of teams and players from around the league in a little post I like to call “Fun with Box Scores”.

Some of the gems I came across this week:

-Quinten Richardson has gone 9 games, 275 minutes played, without taking a single free throw this season.

-Even more remarkably, Jason Kidd has taken just 2 free throws in 347 minutes this season.

 

-73% of Daniel Gibson’s shots this season have been from beyond the three point line, by far the highest percentage of any player in the league with at least 50 shots taken.

 

-Since 1986, the record for most 40+ point games before December 1st is 14. Brandon Jennings’ 55 point outburst on Saturday was the 14th time that someone has scored at least 40 this season, tying the record, and we’ve still got 15 days left in the month.

 

-Speaking of Jennings, since 1986, no player has had a better three point field goal percentage during a 50-point game than he did on Saturday (minimum 3 attempts).

 

-In that same time span, Jennings is the youngest player ever to shoot at least 34 shots in a game.

 

-Nazr Mohammed led the Bobcats in scoring on Wednesday with a whopping 13 points. In nine games this season, the Cat’s have failed to have a player reach 20 points in five of them, by far the most in the league.

 

-Golden State has given up at least 100 points in every game this season. They are the only team in the league to do so this season.

Continue reading "Fun With Box Scores"


Brad Hurt

Warriors 113, Grizzlies 105 posted by Brad Hurt

In order to be successful in basketball, a team has to protect the ball, play solid defense and make free throws, among other things.  The Grizzlies did none of those on Wednesday as they fell to Golden State.  Specifically, the Grizzlies need to figure out how to play from ahead.  They know plenty about playing from behind, but they can't seem to hold on to their lead.  This season they are getting off to good starts but allowing their opponents to chip away at their lead, and it happened again against the Warriors.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, but the lead shrank steadily from there.  Anthony Morrow tied the game with a 3-pointer at the 5-minute mark of the second quarter, and the lead went back and forth into the third.  The Warriors then pulled away with an 11-2 run late in the third.  Until that point, the Grizzlies had played a good third quarter by their standards.

This was Rudy Gay's night.  Allen Iverson got the Grizzlies started, but Rudy took over hitting clutch jumpers to save countless possessions.  He finished with 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting.  It's a shame that he most likely will not be in a Memphis uniform next season unless negotiations pick up.  I don't think the Grizzlies are going to give him the money he wants, which is typical of this organization.  Plus, I'm sure Rudy wants to play for a playoff contender, and the Grizzlies are still not at that point.  He is streaky, but when he is hot, as he was in this game, he can take over.

Continue reading "Warriors 113, Grizzlies 105"


Andy Charles

Jackson just can’t get his way posted by Andy Charles

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Jackson just can’t seemingly learn how to behave – it doesn’t matter where he plays or what he does, he’s always in the headlines for the wrong reasons either on or off the court.

After a relatively quiet start to his career in San Antonio and Atlanta, ever since he arrived with the dysfunctional Indiana Pacers at the start of the 2004-5 season it has been a long downhill run for the swingman.

Within a couple of months of his Pacer debut, he was handed a 30-game ban for his role in the Palace of Auburn Hills brawl and the season after he was charged with criminal recklessness for firing his gun during an altercation outside a strip club in Indianapolis.

Although things were better for him after a trade to Golden State in early 2007, he was ejected twice during their NBA playoff series win over Dallas, but he did go on to become an important cog in Don Nelson’s team until his demand for a trade this summer.

His latest indiscretion came last week when he had a very public falling out with coach Nelson on the bench at an exhibition game with the Los Angeles Lakers and was suspended for two further games, albeit pre-season warm-ups.

Sadly for the Warriors, Jackson is their best option at the swing position and they are keen to get him back on court, but is a disgruntled player going to be much help to their younger stars in the making, players who have a big future in front of them like Stephen Curry, Anthony Randolph and Anthony Morrow.

But they cannot afford to buy Jackson out given that his contract calls for him to be paid $7.6m this season before an extension kicks in at the start of next season that will earn him $27.8m more over three years.

Continue reading "Jackson just can’t get his way"

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Ball Don’t Lie’s 2013-14 Playoff Previews: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State W

The playoffs begin on Saturday, thankfully, which means it’s that lovely time of spring (and it is spring, right? It’s not going to snow again, is it?) for the minds behind Ball Don’t Lie to offer you their thoughts on the upcoming pairings in the first round of the NBA’s postseason. Kelly Dwyer’s Old Grey Whistle Test It’s sad and more than a little enervating that the Golden State Warriors’ chances at a championship are exactly where we pegged them a year ago. They’re the same as when we left them following their second round loss to San Antonio, and last autumn when 2013-14 sparked up. The team is only going as far as the relative health of Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut will allow, and no amount of bench woes, coaching intrigue, and dodgy shooting can drag the narrative and scouting report from where it belongs. It needs Curry to dominate offensively, and Bogut to do the same on the other end, and while this may come off as too simple, one would have a hard time arguing otherwise. This is why the revelation of Andrew Bogut’s most recent significant injury is such an absolute downer, such a killer for a team that truly could have made some postseason noise had the matchups been in place, and the threes-and-defense philosophy fully executed. Bogut may not even be his team’s best defender, all-around demon Andre Iguodala probably takes that prize, but in spite of some intriguing defensive depth in the pivot and the possibility that the team’s brilliant shooting backcourt could still make wonderful work out of April, May and June, the Warriors’ hopes were just about dashed when it was announced that the big man would be out indefinitely with a rib injury. The Los Angeles Clippers don’t have their own injury woes, not to that extent, but it is always worth biting a nail or two when discussing the durability of all-world point guard Chris Paul. CP3 isn’t exactly a ligament-tearing charity case, but he has missed solid chunks of some of his NBA turns. This season’s 20-game interruption was his longest since 2010, and with the flighty Darren Collison replacing Paul in the lineup and forward Blake Griffin still working past criticism about his supposed stasis as a contributor, there was significant worry when Paul went down with a separated right shoulder over the winter. Famously, the Clippers went 12-6 in Chris’ absence, with Blake leading the way while boasting a fantabulous mix of point forward-isms and potent finishing from just about everywhere within that three-point line. Los Angeles didn’t seem to miss a beat following Paul’s return, reeling off a 12-2 run that saw the league’s best point guard happily passing on dominating the ball, allowing Griffin and his cohorts to run the show at times while still somehow maintaining the same assist and usage percentages. This is why the Doc Rivers-led crew is a championship contender. The former Celtics title-winning coach somehow found a way to eliminate the previous era’s glaring weaknesses – Griffin’s short-armed missteps, DeAndre Jordan’s clueless defensive work some 19 feet away from the goal, Paul’s ball domination – in the span of a year, and the returning Pacific Division champs have a genuine shot at something special this spring, and possibly summer. Golden State shouldn’t boast that same confidence, not without Bogut in place for an extended period of time. New starter Jermaine O’Neal has been a revelation in his 18th season, but even the NBA’s best potential defensive backup pivotman doesn’t approximate what Bogut provides, and rookie Ognjen Kuzmic is just too raw to be counted on in nationally televised games. The team with the ill-gotten stereotype as an offense-only squad may have to act as much against Los Angeles, ignoring the Kent Bazemores and Iguodalas in favor of something desperate. Usually pitched from 25 feet away. Toss in the clear enmity between the two squads, and you just have a huge disappointment. The Warriors may annoy at times, but the team’s roster is also filled with all manner of respectable characters, and there genuinely was second and third and perhaps fourth round potential with this lot. Bogut’s absence doesn’t completely decimate Golden State, and the man could still return before his team’s season ends, but those chances have been hamstrung. From there, it’s up to the Clippers. After years of prattling around with former administrations in charge, it’s time for this squad to follow through on what could be theirs. It has to start with a swift take down of a team it hates. Prediction: Los Angeles in five. Dan Devine's One Big Question Every postseason matchup has its own unique set of variables for each team, and prognosticator, to attempt to solve. Here's one that BDL's Dan Devine has been mulling over. Do the Warriors stand a chance without Andrew Bogut? Forgive me for being obvious, but after learning that the bruising Aussie is out indefinitely with a fractured rib — a break that Bogut told reporters has him "looking at a punctured lung," and that head coach Mark Jackson "all but confirmed" will keep Bogut out for the full postseason, according to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News — it seems like the most relevant question. Bogut played arguably his best ball of the season against the rival Clippers, averaging just under 12 points, 11 rebounds and two combined blocks and steals in 27.5 minutes per game, shooting 67.7 percent from the field and setting a physical tone that helped keep high-flying Clippers stars Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan a bit more grounded. Willingness to push and shove aside, Bogut also stood as Golden State's best interior defender and rim protector this season; his absence figures to be a problem against a Clippers team that shot a scorching 67.7 percent in the restricted area this season, second-best in the NBA behind the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. Bogut held opponents to 45 percent shooting on at-rim attempts when he was in the defensive neighborhood this season, according to the NBA's SportVU player tracking data , an elite number among paint-protecting regulars. Warriors opponents took a lower share of their shots inside the paint with Bogut guarding the yard (46.4 percent of total field-goal attempts) than with him resting (47.3 percent) and connected on a lower percentage of them (49.8 percent with Bogut, 52.8 percent without). While Jackson has several other strong defenders on his roster — perimeter ace Andre Iguodala, versatile forward Draymond Green, point-checking two-guard Klay Thompson, veteran backup center Jermaine O'Neal, etc. — he doesn't have another paint deterrent of Bogut's caliber, and if the numbers from the regular-season series against the Clippers are any indication, that's a major issue for Golden State: • With Bogut on the floor, the Warriors outscored the Clippers by 17 points over 110 minutes in four meetings this season. Without him, L.A. was +20 in 82 minutes. • With Bogut on the floor, the Clippers scored an average of 105.7 points per 100 possessions, which would've ranked 10th in the NBA over the course of the full season. While that mark would be the envy of plenty of NBA teams — 20, according to my advanced math — it represented a steep drop-off from the Clippers' top-of-the-pops offensive efficiency of 109.4-per-100. When Bogut sat, the Clips shot right back up to their customary rate of scoring brilliance, pouring it in at a 109.3-per-100 rate. • With Bogut on the floor, the Clippers grabbed just 45.6 percent of available rebounds. When he sat, that number rose to 53.8 percent. To put that in perspective: when facing Bogut, the Clips rebounded like the dead-last-in-the-NBA Los Angeles Lakers, and when they didn't have to face him, they scarfed up caroms at a clip that would have been No. 1 with a bullet during the regular season, head and shoulders above the league-best Oklahoma City Thunder. • With Bogut on the floor, the Warriors were much better at defending L.A. without hacking, committing 46 personal fouls in 110 minutes. With Bogut on the bench, the Clippers drew 53 personal foul calls in 82 minutes, leading to an obscenely high free-throw rate that kept the Clipper offense humming along. It's worth remembering that we're only talking about a couple of hundred minutes over the span of four games, but if those trends hold up, the future looks grim for Golden State. A version of the Warriors that can't keep Griffin and Jordan off the glass, can't keep the Clippers off the foul line, and can't slow down an elite offense now firing on all cylinders thanks to the return of shooting guards J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford is a version of the Warriors that doesn't appear to be long for the postseason world. The Warriors are not utterly bereft without Bogut, of course. The 17-year veteran O'Neal has played well when pressed into duty as a starter, averaging 10.5 points on 57.7 percent shooting, 7.1 rebounds and just over one block in 25 minutes per game, and he's certainly more than willing mix it up with Blake and company . But he's just one man, and there's not much behind him on the Dubs' depth chart. Sophomore Festus Ezeli isn't yet back to 5-on-5 action after missing the entire season following right knee surgery. Jackson likely won't turn to end-of-the-benchers Ognjen Kuzmić and Hilton Armstrong in the playoffs. And past MVP chants aside , I wouldn't want to hitch my wagon to Marreese Speights' defensive prowess against Chris Paul in the pick-and-roll. The best solution might be one that Jackson has said he'll now give longer looks: smaller lineups featuring David Lee at the five with some combination of Green, Iguodala and Harrison Barnes up front alongside Thompson and Stephen Curry in the backcourt. Such units have largely roasted the opposition offensively this season, albeit in relatively limited burn (none have seen more than 105 minutes of floor time) and could pose problems for the Clippers defense by creating gobs of space for Curry-Lee pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops, Curry's unique brand of dribbling improvisation and ball swings that lead to open 3-pointers, much as they did against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of last year's postseason. But these Clippers are not last year's Nuggets, this Barnes is not last year's Barnes, and last year's injured Lee isn't this year's injured Bogut. It ought to be sensationally fun to watch Steph try to Human Torch his way past the Clips. Enjoy it while it lasts; unless Bogut winds up pulling a miraculous Lee-like recovery sooner rather than later, I don't think it'll last very long. Prediction: Clippers in 5. Eric Freeman’s Guide to Playoff Watchability Over the next two months, basketball fans will hear all manner of insights into key matchups, x-factors, and other series-deciding phenomena. For most people, though, watching so much basketball is a luxury or bizarre form of punishment, not a fact of life. These brave souls must know one thing: is this game between 10 men in pajamas worth the time? Eric Freeman’s Guide to Playoff Watchability attempts to answer this difficult question. The basketball world has awaited this series for several months. Way back in the first week of the season, the Clippers snubbed the Warriors by declining to share pre-game chapel services , a rare snub in a league where most players stay friendly when not on the court. That moment ran alongside several hotly contested games, including a Christmas barnburner that featured several scuffles and ejections . A seven-game series promised all that drama, plus the purer pleasures of watching so many exciting, athletic players in one place. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, et al. — it was almost too much to handle. Up until this past weekend, that excitement was still palpable. However, the broken rib recently suffered by Andrew Bogut, the Warriors’ chief antagonist, has thrown all that into flux. If Bogut is out for the entire series, which seems likely, the Warriors will be forced to go small. That could be very watchable, particularly given their arsenal of three-point shooters, but Doc Rivers already starts two hyper-athletic frontcourt players and has many perimeter options at his disposal. More than perhaps any other team in the league, the Clippers can adjust to smaller lineups without sacrificing much at all. To be clear, this series figures to be very watchable, if only because these teams offer so much potential in the way of stylistic basketball. Yet, with Bogut out, it also figures to be somewhat one-sided. Tune in only if you’re more concerned with fun stuff than the final score. Rating: 6 out of 10 Recitations of Philippians 4:13 Prediction: Clippers in 5.   [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

Ball Don’t Lie’s 2013-14 Playoff Previews: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State W

The playoffs begin on Saturday, thankfully, which means it’s that lovely time of spring (and it is spring, right? It’s not going to snow again, is it?) for the minds behind Ball Don’t Lie to offer you their thoughts on the upcoming pairings in the first round of the NBA’s postseason. Kelly Dwyer’s Old Grey Whistle Test It’s sad and more than a little enervating that the Golden State Warriors’ chances at a championship are exactly where we pegged them a year ago. They’re the same as when we left them following their second round loss to San Antonio, and last autumn when 2013-14 sparked up. The team is only going as far as the relative health of Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut will allow, and no amount of bench woes, coaching intrigue, and dodgy shooting can drag the narrative and scouting report from where it belongs. It needs Curry to dominate offensively, and Bogut to do the same on the other end, and while this may come off as too simple, one would have a hard time arguing otherwise. This is why the revelation of Andrew Bogut’s most recent significant injury is such an absolute downer, such a killer for a team that truly could have made some postseason noise had the matchups been in place, and the threes-and-defense philosophy fully executed. Bogut may not even be his team’s best defender, all-around demon Andre Iguodala probably takes that prize, but in spite of some intriguing defensive depth in the pivot and the possibility that the team’s brilliant shooting backcourt could still make wonderful work out of April, May and June, the Warriors’ hopes were just about dashed when it was announced that the big man would be out indefinitely with a rib injury. The Los Angeles Clippers don’t have their own injury woes, not to that extent, but it is always worth biting a nail or two when discussing the durability of all-world point guard Chris Paul. CP3 isn’t exactly a ligament-tearing charity case, but he has missed solid chunks of some of his NBA turns. This season’s 20-game interruption was his longest since 2010, and with the flighty Darren Collison replacing Paul in the lineup and forward Blake Griffin still working past criticism about his supposed stasis as a contributor, there was significant worry when Paul went down with a separated right shoulder over the winter. Famously, the Clippers went 12-6 in Chris’ absence, with Blake leading the way while boasting a fantabulous mix of point forward-isms and potent finishing from just about everywhere within that three-point line. Los Angeles didn’t seem to miss a beat following Paul’s return, reeling off a 12-2 run that saw the league’s best point guard happily passing on dominating the ball, allowing Griffin and his cohorts to run the show at times while still somehow maintaining the same assist and usage percentages. This is why the Doc Rivers-led crew is a championship contender. The former Celtics title-winning coach somehow found a way to eliminate the previous era’s glaring weaknesses – Griffin’s short-armed missteps, DeAndre Jordan’s clueless defensive work some 19 feet away from the goal, Paul’s ball domination – in the span of a year, and the returning Pacific Division champs have a genuine shot at something special this spring, and possibly summer. Golden State shouldn’t boast that same confidence, not without Bogut in place for an extended period of time. New starter Jermaine O’Neal has been a revelation in his 18th season, but even the NBA’s best potential defensive backup pivotman doesn’t approximate what Bogut provides, and rookie Ognjen Kuzmic is just too raw to be counted on in nationally televised games. The team with the ill-gotten stereotype as an offense-only squad may have to act as much against Los Angeles, ignoring the Kent Bazemores and Iguodalas in favor of something desperate. Usually pitched from 25 feet away. Toss in the clear enmity between the two squads, and you just have a huge disappointment. The Warriors may annoy at times, but the team’s roster is also filled with all manner of respectable characters, and there genuinely was second and third and perhaps fourth round potential with this lot. Bogut’s absence doesn’t completely decimate Golden State, and the man could still return before his team’s season ends, but those chances have been hamstrung. From there, it’s up to the Clippers. After years of prattling around with former administrations in charge, it’s time for this squad to follow through on what could be theirs. It has to start with a swift take down of a team it hates. Prediction: Los Angeles in five. Dan Devine's One Big Question Every postseason matchup has its own unique set of variables for each team, and prognosticator, to attempt to solve. Here's one that BDL's Dan Devine has been mulling over. Do the Warriors stand a chance without Andrew Bogut? Forgive me for being obvious, but after learning that the bruising Aussie is out indefinitely with a fractured rib — a break that Bogut told reporters has him "looking at a punctured lung," and that head coach Mark Jackson "all but confirmed" will keep Bogut out for the full postseason, according to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News — it seems like the most relevant question. Bogut played arguably his best ball of the season against the rival Clippers, averaging just under 12 points, 11 rebounds and two combined blocks and steals in 27.5 minutes per game, shooting 67.7 percent from the field and setting a physical tone that helped keep high-flying Clippers stars Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan a bit more grounded. Willingness to push and shove aside, Bogut also stood as Golden State's best interior defender and rim protector this season; his absence figures to be a problem against a Clippers team that shot a scorching 67.7 percent in the restricted area this season, second-best in the NBA behind the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. Bogut held opponents to 45 percent shooting on at-rim attempts when he was in the defensive neighborhood this season, according to the NBA's SportVU player tracking data , an elite number among paint-protecting regulars. Warriors opponents took a lower share of their shots inside the paint with Bogut guarding the yard (46.4 percent of total field-goal attempts) than with him resting (47.3 percent) and connected on a lower percentage of them (49.8 percent with Bogut, 52.8 percent without). While Jackson has several other strong defenders on his roster — perimeter ace Andre Iguodala, versatile forward Draymond Green, point-checking two-guard Klay Thompson, veteran backup center Jermaine O'Neal, etc. — he doesn't have another paint deterrent of Bogut's caliber, and if the numbers from the regular-season series against the Clippers are any indication, that's a major issue for Golden State: • With Bogut on the floor, the Warriors outscored the Clippers by 17 points over 110 minutes in four meetings this season. Without him, L.A. was +20 in 82 minutes. • With Bogut on the floor, the Clippers scored an average of 105.7 points per 100 possessions, which would've ranked 10th in the NBA over the course of the full season. While that mark would be the envy of plenty of NBA teams — 20, according to my advanced math — it represented a steep drop-off from the Clippers' top-of-the-pops offensive efficiency of 109.4-per-100. When Bogut sat, the Clips shot right back up to their customary rate of scoring brilliance, pouring it in at a 109.3-per-100 rate. • With Bogut on the floor, the Clippers grabbed just 45.6 percent of available rebounds. When he sat, that number rose to 53.8 percent. To put that in perspective: when facing Bogut, the Clips rebounded like the dead-last-in-the-NBA Los Angeles Lakers, and when they didn't have to face him, they scarfed up caroms at a clip that would have been No. 1 with a bullet during the regular season, head and shoulders above the league-best Oklahoma City Thunder. • With Bogut on the floor, the Warriors were much better at defending L.A. without hacking, committing 46 personal fouls in 110 minutes. With Bogut on the bench, the Clippers drew 53 personal foul calls in 82 minutes, leading to an obscenely high free-throw rate that kept the Clipper offense humming along. It's worth remembering that we're only talking about a couple of hundred minutes over the span of four games, but if those trends hold up, the future looks grim for Golden State. A version of the Warriors that can't keep Griffin and Jordan off the glass, can't keep the Clippers off the foul line, and can't slow down an elite offense now firing on all cylinders thanks to the return of shooting guards J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford is a version of the Warriors that doesn't appear to be long for the postseason world. The Warriors are not utterly bereft without Bogut, of course. The 17-year veteran O'Neal has played well when pressed into duty as a starter, averaging 10.5 points on 57.7 percent shooting, 7.1 rebounds and just over one block in 25 minutes per game, and he's certainly more than willing mix it up with Blake and company . But he's just one man, and there's not much behind him on the Dubs' depth chart. Sophomore Festus Ezeli isn't yet back to 5-on-5 action after missing the entire season following right knee surgery. Jackson likely won't turn to end-of-the-benchers Ognjen Kuzmić and Hilton Armstrong in the playoffs. And past MVP chants aside , I wouldn't want to hitch my wagon to Marreese Speights' defensive prowess against Chris Paul in the pick-and-roll. The best solution might be one that Jackson has said he'll now give longer looks: smaller lineups featuring David Lee at the five with some combination of Green, Iguodala and Harrison Barnes up front alongside Thompson and Stephen Curry in the backcourt. Such units have largely roasted the opposition offensively this season, albeit in relatively limited burn (none have seen more than 105 minutes of floor time) and could pose problems for the Clippers defense by creating gobs of space for Curry-Lee pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops, Curry's unique brand of dribbling improvisation and ball swings that lead to open 3-pointers, much as they did against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of last year's postseason. But these Clippers are not last year's Nuggets, this Barnes is not last year's Barnes, and last year's injured Lee isn't this year's injured Bogut. It ought to be sensationally fun to watch Steph try to Human Torch his way past the Clips. Enjoy it while it lasts; unless Bogut winds up pulling a miraculous Lee-like recovery sooner rather than later, I don't think it'll last very long. Prediction: Clippers in 5. Eric Freeman’s Guide to Playoff Watchability Over the next two months, basketball fans will hear all manner of insights into key matchups, x-factors, and other series-deciding phenomena. For most people, though, watching so much basketball is a luxury or bizarre form of punishment, not a fact of life. These brave souls must know one thing: is this game between 10 men in pajamas worth the time? Eric Freeman’s Guide to Playoff Watchability attempts to answer this difficult question. The basketball world has awaited this series for several months. Way back in the first week of the season, the Clippers snubbed the Warriors by declining to share pre-game chapel services , a rare snub in a league where most players stay friendly when not on the court. That moment ran alongside several hotly contested games, including a Christmas barnburner that featured several scuffles and ejections . A seven-game series promised all that drama, plus the purer pleasures of watching so many exciting, athletic players in one place. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, et al. — it was almost too much to handle. Up until this past weekend, that excitement was still palpable. However, the broken rib recently suffered by Andrew Bogut, the Warriors’ chief antagonist, has thrown all that into flux. If Bogut is out for the entire series, which seems likely, the Warriors will be forced to go small. That could be very watchable, particularly given their arsenal of three-point shooters, but Doc Rivers already starts two hyper-athletic frontcourt players and has many perimeter options at his disposal. More than perhaps any other team in the league, the Clippers can adjust to smaller lineups without sacrificing much at all. To be clear, this series figures to be very watchable, if only because these teams offer so much potential in the way of stylistic basketball. Yet, with Bogut out, it also figures to be somewhat one-sided. Tune in only if you’re more concerned with fun stuff than the final score. Rating: 6 out of 10 Recitations of Philippians 4:13 Prediction: Clippers in 5.   [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Clippers-Warriors series billed as must-see TV (The Associated Press)

Forget the Showtime Lakers or the Sacramento Kings of past decades. The alley-oops in Lob City, the deep 3-pointers by the Splash Brothers and the overall bitterness between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors should make for one of the most entertaining matchups in the first round of the NBA playoffs. ''As far as a series, it's a 10,'' said former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, who will have a front row seat on the ABC broadcasting team for Game 1 in Los Angeles on Saturday. Those Kings teams, dubbed ''The Greatest Show on Court'' on a 2001 Sports Illustrated cover, never even made the NBA Finals. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


NBA playoff picture update: Blazers' home-court hopes still alive, Mavs and Hawks are in, Pa

If you're anything like me and Detroit Pistons rookie Peyton Siva, when it gets this late in the season, you come out of the weekend like: So let's get caught up on how the weekend that just passed reshaped the playoff picture, which is mere days away from being officially finalized, starting with an instant classic in Rip City. Well, that was awesome. The Sunday night matchup between the playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors was just too good to be limited to 48 minutes. Get caught up quickly on the late-game craziness and overtime back-and-forth here: (If you'd like a longer, more context-rich recap that stretches back to the start of the fourth quarter, Gmo's Rockets' Highlights has you covered.) Despite a season-high 47 points on 16 for 29 shooting from irrepressible flamethrower Stephen Curry, and a combined 72 points from Curry and Klay Thompson on 13 for 27 shooting from 3-point land, the Blazers held off the Warriors, 119-117 , in a celebration of shot-making and scoring-as-liberating-performance-art that would've made Toni and Candace proud. LaMarcus Aldridge's pick-and-pop 20-footer with 39 seconds remaining capped a 26-point, seven-rebound night for him and stood up as the game-winner. Nicolas Batum (18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in 44 minutes) did a little bit of everything, and while Damian Lillard was off (13 points on 3 for 13 shooting and some shaky decision-making that has led to post-game grumbling ), reserve guard Mo Williams was there to pick up the slack with 18 points on 8 for 10 shooting, three rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 22 minutes off the pine. He was pretty psyched about it, which makes sense: This was one of the best games of the yr 2nite. #ripcity —Mo Williams (@mowilliams) April 14, 2014 The win improved Portland to 53-28, securing no worse than the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and bringing them within a half-game of the Houston Rockets for the No. 4 spot. The Blazers and Rockets are now officially locked into playing one another in the first round, but which squad will have home-court advantage remains to be seen —one more Houston win (either Monday night over the San Antonio Spurs or Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans) will give the Rockets the honors, while Portland can still open the playoffs at home if Houston loses out and the Blazers beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday . The Warriors are still assured of a postseason berth, having clinched with their Friday night win over the Los Angeles Lakers. But the loss to the Blazers means they can't finish higher than sixth, ensuring that they're going to get either the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder or Clippers in the first round. It also opens the door for a Warriors team that has scuffled a bit of late (5-5 in their last 10 games) and could be without center Andrew Bogut (who left Sunday's game early with an apparent rib injury ) sliding even further down the Western bracket, where they're now just a half-game ahead of the No. 7 seed, which belongs to ... DDoS: Dallas denial of service. Eric Bledsoe is very quick, very fast and very good at getting to the basket, which makes him a pretty good late-game option when the Phoenix Suns desperately need a basket to tie the Dallas Mavericks in a game between two of the three teams scrapping for the last playoff spots in the brutally competitive Western Conference. Unfortunately for Bledsoe and the orange-and-purple-loving folks of the Valley of the Sun, though, Brandan Wright appears to be Cloak : Wright's third block of the game (to go with 12 points and 11 rebounds off the bench) sealed a 101-98 win that locked up a playoff berth for the Mavericks, who could finish as high as sixth in the West depending upon how the next three days shake out for the Warriors; Dallas now sits at 49-32, a half-game behind the Dubs for the No. 6 spot, and a half-game clear of the eighth seed currently held by ... Just keep grinding. The Memphis Grizzlies closed Sunday strong with a 102-90 win over the Lakers, their third straight victory, thanks in large part to monster games from center Marc Gasol (18 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and three steals in 36 minutes) and point guard Mike Conley (24 points on 9 for 12 shooting, eight assists, two steals and just one turnover in 34 1/2 minutes). So, naturally, the play we're going to show you was made by Zach Randolph, who picked a pretty good time to become a passing wizard: Let's see that from a different angle and at a more Z-Bo appropriate rate of speed, please: I've thought a lot about which new Zach nickname I like best after this, and I've come to the conclusion that it's "Ricky RuZ-Bo." You may feel free to try to sway my opinion in the comments, but it's probably going to be pretty hard. (Also, way to finish the layup, Nick Calathes, thus turning this into an official highlight.) Thanks to Phoenix's Saturday loss, the Grizzlies now hold a one-game lead over the Suns for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Memphis and Phoenix play on Monday night ; if Memphis wins, they're in, and the Suns will see their shockingly successful season come to a disappointing end on Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings. It's kind of a big game out in the desert. Top billin' . The Indiana Pacers are once again atop the Eastern Conference, thanks to an impressive 102-97 victory over the Thunder in ABC's Sunday matinee fueled by Lance Stephenson's NBA-leading and Pacers franchise record fifth triple-double of the season (17 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds), strong play up front from Paul George and David West (a combined 41 points and 18 rebounds), and —will wonders never cease! —legitimate contributions from the Pacer bench, led by recently returned point guard C.J. Watson, who had 20 points in 25 minutes off the bench and steadied Indy's ship on a day where George Hill didn't quite have his fastball. After Friday's loss to the Miami Heat, the Pacers had once again dipped down to the No. 2 spot; now, Indy's just one more win (in Wednesday's finale against the Orlando Magic) or one more Miami Heat loss away from securing home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, thanks in part to ... Birds of war . Shouts out to the Atlanta Hawks, who became the eighth and final team to earn a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference on Saturday by beating the Heat, 98-85 , behind 18 fourth-quarter points from Lou Williams and another strong outing (25 points, four rebounds, four steals, three assists and no turnovers in 36 minutes) from point guard Jeff Teague, who's averaging 20 points and 5.5 assists per game on 50.7/37.8/90.7 shooting splits over his last 10 games . The Hawks can't get any higher than the eighth seed, but they've made the playoffs for the seventh straight season despite losing expected centerpiece Al Horford less than two months into head coach Mike Budenholzer's first year in charge, which is commendable, if not necessarily the great big goal for general manager Danny Ferry and company. Weep not for the memories. The Hawks locking up the eighth seed means the New York Knicks —who earned wins over the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls this weekend —are officially eliminated from postseason contention. New York's 14-5 run over the last five weeks has been nice enough, but it wound up being too little and too late —this is what happens when you lose 40 of your first 61 games, even in a historically poor Eastern Conference —and now Carmelo Anthony will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year NBA career. Perhaps this apparently taped-and-edited-off-TV (which feels thematically appropriate) highlight reel celebrating the 2013-14 Knicks set to "One Shining Moment" will make you feel better, Melo: The cherry on top of the Knicks' season-long sundae of absurdity? This, from Amar'e Stoudemire after Sunday's win over the Bulls, as noted by Steve Popper of the Bergen Record : "On paper we might be the best team in the league. We’ve got great players on this team who accomplished so much. We just couldn’t put it together." Best of luck to the Knicks in the on-paper playoffs, which begin on the 12th of never. (By the way, the Knicks have to win their final two games —against cross-borough rivals the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday and the Raptors on Wednesday —just to meet the projected record produced by ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton that set so many Knicks fans and players to raging before the start of this season. It's funny how things work out.) Walk the dinosaur. The Raptors clinched the Atlantic Division title on Friday despite losing to the Knicks thanks to the Hawks knocking off the Nets. They tied a franchise record Sunday with their 47th win of the season, besting the circling-the-drain Pistons, 116-107 , in a game that saw DeMar DeRozan score 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and punctuate the proceedings with a very loud, very forceful flush atop the dome of Pistons forward Kyle Singler: The combination of the Raptors' win and the Bulls' Sunday loss to the Knicks means both teams enter Monday at 47-33, with Toronto re-taking the No. 3 seed in the East by virtue of being a division winner. The Raptors conclude their regular-season slate with a home game against the worst-in-the-NBA Milwaukee Bucks on Monday and one last meeting with the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, while the Bulls welcome the 23-57 Magic tonight before finishing things off in North Carolina against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. Seed toss. Superchunk . Quickly: EASTERN CONFERENCE •If Miami loses to the Wizards on Monday , Indy's No. 1 in the East and the Heat are No. 2. •If the Raptors beat the Bucks and the Bulls lose to the Magic , Toronto locks up No. 3 seed and puts Chicago at No. 4. •The Nets ensured that they can't finish any worse than No. 6 in the East by beating the Magic on Sunday. If the Wizards lose to the Heat, Brooklyn's No. 5. •If the Wizards beat the Heat and the Bobcats lose to the Hawks , Charlotte's locked into No. 7. (Lots of stuff can still happen for the Wizards. Bullets Forever's Mike Prada runs through the various postseason possibilities.) WESTERN CONFERENCE •The Spurs beat the Suns on Friday, clinching the NBA's best regular-season record and securing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. They're one win away from tying the 2005-06 squad (63-19) for the most wins in franchise history; if they beat the Rockets on Monday and the Lakers in the season finale on Wednesday , they'll finish at 64-18, the best mark of any Spurs team of all time. This is where we remind you that Tim Duncan is 11 days shy of his 38th birthday, and that the Spurs are ridiculous. •The Thunder's Sunday loss to the Pacers gives the Clippers an outside shot of securing the West's No. 2 seed. If OKC beats the Pelicans on Monday, they lock up No. 2 and put the Clippers in third place. But if, by some stroke of unpredictable magic, Oklahoma City loses to a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith (and possibly Tyreke Evans and Brian Roberts, too), the door's still open just a bit for L.A. to take over No. 2 —basically, they need to win their last two games and they need the Thunder to lose their last two games. •If the Rockets beat the Spurs , Houston's the No. 4 seed and Portland's the No. 5 seed. •If Golden State beats the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Warriors lock up the No. 6 seed. •If the Grizzlies beat the Suns , Memphis clinches the No. 8 seed and eliminates Phoenix. •if the Suns beat the Grizzlies, they stay alive; if Phoenix and Golden State both win, Dallas locks up the No. 7 seed. Got all that? Of course you do. Now, to cleanse your palate, here's Russell Westbrook not exactly sticking the landing on his attempt to play after-the-whistle troll. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Ball Don’t Lie’s 2013-14 Playoff Previews: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State W

The playoffs begin on Saturday, thankfully, which means it’s that lovely time of spring (and it is spring, right? It’s not going to snow again, is it?) for the minds behind Ball Don’t Lie to offer you their thoughts on the upcoming pairings in the first round of the NBA’s postseason. Kelly Dwyer’s Old Grey Whistle Test It’s sad and more than a little enervating that the Golden State Warriors’ chances at a championship are exactly where we pegged them a year ago. They’re the same as when we left them following their second round loss to San Antonio, and last autumn when 2013-14 sparked up. The team is only going as far as the relative health of Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut will allow, and no amount of bench woes, coaching intrigue, and dodgy shooting can drag the narrative and scouting report from where it belongs. It needs Curry to dominate offensively, and Bogut to do the same on the other end, and while this may come off as too simple, one would have a hard time arguing otherwise. This is why the revelation of Andrew Bogut’s most recent significant injury is such an absolute downer, such a killer for a team that truly could have made some postseason noise had the matchups been in place, and the threes-and-defense philosophy fully executed. Bogut may not even be his team’s best defender, all-around demon Andre Iguodala probably takes that prize, but in spite of some intriguing defensive depth in the pivot and the possibility that the team’s brilliant shooting backcourt could still make wonderful work out of April, May and June, the Warriors’ hopes were just about dashed when it was announced that the big man would be out indefinitely with a rib injury. The Los Angeles Clippers don’t have their own injury woes, not to that extent, but it is always worth biting a nail or two when discussing the durability of all-world point guard Chris Paul. CP3 isn’t exactly a ligament-tearing charity case, but he has missed solid chunks of some of his NBA turns. This season’s 20-game interruption was his longest since 2010, and with the flighty Darren Collison replacing Paul in the lineup and forward Blake Griffin still working past criticism about his supposed stasis as a contributor, there was significant worry when Paul went down with a separated right shoulder over the winter. Famously, the Clippers went 12-6 in Chris’ absence, with Blake leading the way while boasting a fantabulous mix of point forward-isms and potent finishing from just about everywhere within that three-point line. Los Angeles didn’t seem to miss a beat following Paul’s return, reeling off a 12-2 run that saw the league’s best point guard happily passing on dominating the ball, allowing Griffin and his cohorts to run the show at times while still somehow maintaining the same assist and usage percentages. This is why the Doc Rivers-led crew is a championship contender. The former Celtics title-winning coach somehow found a way to eliminate the previous era’s glaring weaknesses – Griffin’s short-armed missteps, DeAndre Jordan’s clueless defensive work some 19 feet away from the goal, Paul’s ball domination – in the span of a year, and the returning Pacific Division champs have a genuine shot at something special this spring, and possibly summer. Golden State shouldn’t boast that same confidence, not without Bogut in place for an extended period of time. New starter Jermaine O’Neal has been a revelation in his 18th season, but even the NBA’s best potential defensive backup pivotman doesn’t approximate what Bogut provides, and rookie Ognjen Kuzmic is just too raw to be counted on in nationally televised games. The team with the ill-gotten stereotype as an offense-only squad may have to act as much against Los Angeles, ignoring the Kent Bazemores and Iguodalas in favor of something desperate. Usually pitched from 25 feet away. Toss in the clear enmity between the two squads, and you just have a huge disappointment. The Warriors may annoy at times, but the team’s roster is also filled with all manner of respectable characters, and there genuinely was second and third and perhaps fourth round potential with this lot. Bogut’s absence doesn’t completely decimate Golden State, and the man could still return before his team’s season ends, but those chances have been hamstrung. From there, it’s up to the Clippers. After years of prattling around with former administrations in charge, it’s time for this squad to follow through on what could be theirs. It has to start with a swift take down of a team it hates. Prediction: Los Angeles in five. Dan Devine's One Big Question Every postseason matchup has its own unique set of variables for each team, and prognosticator, to attempt to solve. Here's one that BDL's Dan Devine has been mulling over. Do the Warriors stand a chance without Andrew Bogut? Forgive me for being obvious, but after learning that the bruising Aussie is out indefinitely with a fractured rib — a break that Bogut told reporters has him "looking at a punctured lung," and that head coach Mark Jackson "all but confirmed" will keep Bogut out for the full postseason, according to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News — it seems like the most relevant question. Bogut played arguably his best ball of the season against the rival Clippers, averaging just under 12 points, 11 rebounds and two combined blocks and steals in 27.5 minutes per game, shooting 67.7 percent from the field and setting a physical tone that helped keep high-flying Clippers stars Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan a bit more grounded. Willingness to push and shove aside, Bogut also stood as Golden State's best interior defender and rim protector this season; his absence figures to be a problem against a Clippers team that shot a scorching 67.7 percent in the restricted area this season, second-best in the NBA behind the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. Bogut held opponents to 45 percent shooting on at-rim attempts when he was in the defensive neighborhood this season, according to the NBA's SportVU player tracking data , an elite number among paint-protecting regulars. Warriors opponents took a lower share of their shots inside the paint with Bogut guarding the yard (46.4 percent of total field-goal attempts) than with him resting (47.3 percent) and connected on a lower percentage of them (49.8 percent with Bogut, 52.8 percent without). While Jackson has several other strong defenders on his roster — perimeter ace Andre Iguodala, versatile forward Draymond Green, point-checking two-guard Klay Thompson, veteran backup center Jermaine O'Neal, etc. — he doesn't have another paint deterrent of Bogut's caliber, and if the numbers from the regular-season series against the Clippers are any indication, that's a major issue for Golden State: • With Bogut on the floor, the Warriors outscored the Clippers by 17 points over 110 minutes in four meetings this season. Without him, L.A. was +20 in 82 minutes. • With Bogut on the floor, the Clippers scored an average of 105.7 points per 100 possessions, which would've ranked 10th in the NBA over the course of the full season. While that mark would be the envy of plenty of NBA teams — 20, according to my advanced math — it represented a steep drop-off from the Clippers' top-of-the-pops offensive efficiency of 109.4-per-100. When Bogut sat, the Clips shot right back up to their customary rate of scoring brilliance, pouring it in at a 109.3-per-100 rate. • With Bogut on the floor, the Clippers grabbed just 45.6 percent of available rebounds. When he sat, that number rose to 53.8 percent. To put that in perspective: when facing Bogut, the Clips rebounded like the dead-last-in-the-NBA Los Angeles Lakers, and when they didn't have to face him, they scarfed up caroms at a clip that would have been No. 1 with a bullet during the regular season, head and shoulders above the league-best Oklahoma City Thunder. • With Bogut on the floor, the Warriors were much better at defending L.A. without hacking, committing 46 personal fouls in 110 minutes. With Bogut on the bench, theClippers drew 53 personal foul calls in 82 minutes, leading to an obscenely high free-throw rate that kept the Clipper offense humming along. It's worth remembering that we're only talking about a couple of hundred minutes over the span of four games, but if those trends hold up, the future looks grim for Golden State. A version of the Warriors that can't keep Griffin and Jordan off the glass, can't keep the Clippers off the foul line, and can't slow down an elite offense now firing on all cylinders thanks to the return of shooting guards J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford is a version of the Warriors that doesn't appear to be long for the postseason world. The Warriors are not utterly bereft without Bogut, of course. The 17-year veteran O'Neal has played well when pressed into duty as a starter, averaging 10.5 points on 57.7 percent shooting, 7.1 rebounds and just over one block in 25 minutes per game, and he's certainly more than willing mix it up with Blake and company . But he's just one man, and there's not much behind him on the Dubs' depth chart. Sophomore Festus Ezeli isn't yet back to 5-on-5 action after missing the entire season following right knee surgery. Jackson likely won't turn to end-of-the-benchers Ognjen Kuzmić and Hilton Armstrong in the playoffs. And past MVP chants aside , I wouldn't want to hitch my wagon to Marreese Speights' defensive prowess against Chris Paul in the pick-and-roll. The best solution might be one that Jackson has said he'll now give longer looks: smaller lineups featuring David Lee at the five with some combination of Green, Iguodala and Harrison Barnes up front alongside Thompson and Stephen Curry in the backcourt. Such units have largely roasted the opposition offensively this season, albeit in relatively limited burn (none have seen more than 105 minutes of floor time) and could pose problems for the Clippers defense by creating gobs of space for Curry-Lee pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops, Curry's unique brand of dribbling improvisation and ball swings that lead to open 3-pointers, much as they did against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of last year's postseason. But these Clippers are not last year's Nuggets, this Barnes is not last year's Barnes, and last year's injured Lee isn't this year's injured Bogut. It ought to be sensationally fun to watch Steph try to Human Torch his way past the Clips. Enjoy it while it lasts; unless Bogut winds up pulling a miraculous Lee-like recovery sooner rather than later, I don't think it'll last very long. Prediction: Clippers in 5. Eric Freeman’s Guide to Playoff Watchability Over the next two months, basketball fans will hear all manner of insights into key matchups, x-factors, and other series-deciding phenomena. For most people, though, watching so much basketball is a luxury or bizarre form of punishment, not a fact of life. These brave souls must know one thing: is this game between 10 men in pajamas worth the time? Eric Freeman’s Guide to Playoff Watchability attempts to answer this difficult question. The basketball world has awaited this series for several months. Way back in the first week of the season, the Clippers snubbed the Warriors by declining to share pre-game chapel services , a rare snub in a league where most players stay friendly when not on the court. That moment ran alongside several hotly contested games, including a Christmas barnburner that featured several scuffles and ejections . A seven-game series promised all that drama, plus the purer pleasures of watching so many exciting, athletic players in one place. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, et al. — it was almost too much to handle. Up until this past weekend, that excitement was still palpable. However, the broken rib recently suffered by Andrew Bogut, the Warriors’ chief antagonist, has thrown all that into flux. If Bogut is out for the entire series, which seems likely, the Warriors will be forced to go small. That could be very watchable, particularly giventheir arsenal of three-point shooters, but Doc Rivers already starts two hyper-athletic frontcourt players and has many perimeter options at his disposal. More than perhaps any other team in the league, the Clippers can adjust to smaller lineups without sacrificing much at all. To be clear, this series figures to be very watchable, if only because these teams offer so much potential in the way of stylistic basketball. Yet, with Bogut out, it also figures to be somewhat one-sided. Tune in only if you’re more concerned with fun stuff than the final score. Rating: 6 out of 10 Recitations of Philippians 4:13 Prediction: Clippers in 5.   [read full article]

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