10:30 PM EST, ABC – Line: Warriors -14.5, Over/Under: 233
The end is nigh for one of these teams, as the Los Angeles Clippers appear to be on the verge of a proverbial Gentleman’s Sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in Game Five of their First Round Series from ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. In a 2018-2019 ripe with overachievers, the Clippers (48-34, 8th in Western Conference) very well may be the most significant, because for all intents and purposes, this was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Los Angeles’ other basketball team. After all, with the Front Office getting a makeover under the vision of their new Basketball Czar, Jerry West, and the roster undergoing a major overhaul, featuring the exodus of the previous era’s pillars, including All-Stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan over the past two years, what was really expected from this team? Every move made over the past two seasons was with an eye fixated on 2019-2020, when they’ll be flush with Cap Space and able to and out a multitude of max-level contracts. So could you really blame Clippers’ Fans for writing this season off as anything but a placeholder to a potential new era of success? Well, something interesting happened to this team, for while their more-celebrated neighbors hogged all of the headlines, these guys became arguably the most unlikely Playoff Team in recent memory. Without a single All-Star occupying a place on their roster, Doc Rivers and his charges managed to escape the hyper-competitive Western Conference with a trip to the Postseason. Rivers has performed some excellent coaching jobs in the past, but this one may just take the cake; Los Angeles sustained a number of peaks of valleys, though were far more consistent after the All-Star Break, going 16-7 down the stretch in large part due to a return to health for many key players, which allowed them to build an identity after a major midseason trade saw them ship their leading scorer, Tobias Harris (20.9 PTS, 49.6% FG, 43.4% 3FG, 7.9 REB, 2.7 AST, 0.7 STL, 18.2 PER), out of town for essentially future assets. So what did the feel-good story of the Western Conference get for their efforts? A First Round Matchup with the reigning four-time West Champions, the Golden State Warriors, that’s what! Needless to say, there was hardly anything expected out of the Clippers in this Series, and the fact that they’ve managed to take one game from the mighty Warriors is a testament Rivers, his Staff, and the Roster, but apart from their record-breaking 31-point comeback victory in Game Two (135-131), this has been every bit of the one-sided affair that it was projected to be. They were utterly obliterated in Games One and Three, outscored by a combined Forty-Four Points, while faring much better in Game Four (105-113), though the outcome was no different. So here’s to Los Angeles for making this Series a bit more interesting than we all thought it would be when the Playoffs began; they’ve managed to overcome some relatively poor-shooting displays (43.9% FG), by getting to the Charity Stripe frequently (94-of-119 FT, 79.0%), and doing their best to match wits with the Dubs from beyond the arc (36.3%). Two-Time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams (20.0 PTS, 42.5% FG, 36.1% 3FG, 3.0 REB, 5.4 AST, 0.8 STL, 21.2 PER) has been absolutely fearless, averaging 22.3 Points on 46.9% shooting from the field, including 36.5% from beyond the arc, while Montrezl Harrell (16.6 PTS, 61.5% FG, 6.5 REB, 2.0 AST, 0.9 STL, 1.3 BLK, 23.4 PER) has bullied his way around the rim, putting up 19.0 Points on 73.8% shooting, 5.5 Rebounds, and 2.5 Assists. But in the end, that’s been the problem; the Clippers are relying on the mot productive Bench Player in NBA History to carry them, while the Warriors have a cadre of All-Stars, including a pair of MVPs. Simply put, this couldn’t have transpired any other way.
Valiant would be the best way to describe the Clippers 105-113 defeat at home in Game Four, for the odds are even further from their favor in falling behind 1-3 in this Series. After getting embarrassed by Twenty-Seven Points in Game Three, the hosts definitely came out more inspired on Easter Sunday, despite trailing by as many as Eleven Points in the Second Quarter. The home side emerged from Halftime revitalized, outscoring the visitors 30-25 in the Third Quarter, even taking a five-point lead at one point in the period. However, the hosts simply lacked the firepower to take it any further than that, as Golden State eventually regained the lead, taking a commanding lead in this Series. On the day, Los Angeles shot just 42.5% from the field, though kept things close thanks to besting their counterpart from the beyond the arc (13-of-31 3FG, 41.9%) and the Charity Stripe (24-of-32 FT, 75.0%), while also taking good care of the basketball, assisting on Twenty-Two of their Thirty-Four Field Goals and committing just Ten Turnovers. The aforementioned Williams struggled off the Bench, scoring just Twelve Points on a disappointing 2-of-10 shooting (20.0%), while Harrell added Ten Points in just under Twenty-Six Minutes of action. However, Rivers didn’t get much out of his Starting Five, despite promising Rookie Point Guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (10.8 PTS, 47.6% FG, 36.7% 3FG, 2.8 REB, 3.3 AST, 1.2 STL, 0.5 BLK, 13.4 PER), putting forth a strong performance with Twenty-Five Points on 9-of-15 shooting (60.0%), the rest of the group could muster just Forty-Three Points on 13-of-37 shooting from the floor (35.1%), with veteran Forward, Danilo Gallinari (19.8 PTS, 46.3% FG, 43.3% 3FG, 6.1 REB, 2.6 AST, 0.7 STL, 21.0 PER), obtaining his Sixteen Points on a poor 5-of-20 shooting (25.0%). This was fun while it lasted guys, but the party is over for now, though there are potentially much greater things looming on the horizon for this franchise, so we’re sure that we’ll be hearing from the Clippers again in the future.
Meanwhile, after sustaining that embarrassing 31-point comeback defeat in Game Two, the Warriors (57-25, 1st in Western Conference) appear to be back on track and ready to advance to Western Conference Semifinals. Indeed, that prior lapse in focus (if you even wish to refer to it as such), may have instilled some sense of doubt in even the most staunch Dubs’ Supporter, though in the end, it all looks much ado about nothing, for a lopsided Series that for all intents should have been decided in Four Games, will in all likelihood be decided in Five instead. We’ve said time and again that the only thing that can truly stop Golden State this season is themselves, and while infighting and injuries have certainly made things interesting for small spells of the campaign, we’re going to stick with that opinion, for one quick glance at the numbers will show how this team has made relatively short work of their opponent once again; Steve Kerr’s charges have averaged 124.3 Points on 51.1% shooting from the field, including 41.9% from beyond the arc, dished out a healthy 31.0 Assists in comparison to committing 17.0 Turnovers, all the while bullying the Clippers on the glass, outrebounding them 47.5 Rebounds t0 37.5 throughout these past four contests. Their tandem of MVPs have loomed large over this affair, with 2013-2014 award winner, Kevin Durant (26.0 PTS, 52.1% FG, 35.3% 3FG, 6.4 REB, 5.9 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.1 BLK, 24.2 PER), averaging 28.8 Points on a stellar 57.4% shooting overall, including 36.8% from downtown, along with 5.0 Rebounds, 5.3 Assists, 1.5 Steals, and 1.3 Blocks, while two-time recipient, Steph Curry (27.3 PTS, 47.2% FG, 43.7% 3FG, 5.3 REB, 5.2 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.4 BLK, 24.4 PER), has added 25.0 Points on 49.2% shooting, including an insane 47.4% from three, with 7.8 Rebounds, 5.3 Assists, and 1.5 Steals to the cause. Of course, there is another matter that needs to be discussed, and that is the loss of DeMarcus Cousins (16.3 PTS, 48.0% FG, 27.4% 3FG, 8.2 REB, 3.6 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.5 BLK, 21.4 PER), who tore his Right Quadriceps after stumbling awkwardly in transition during Game Two’s 131-135 defeat. The four-time All-Star Center surprisingly signed with the Warriors in the Offseason to a meager one-year deal worth just under $5.4 million, after a weathering a relatively cold market thanks to suffering from a torn Achilles midway through the previous season. Unable to return until Mid-January, the massive Cousins slowly worked his body back into shape, acclimating himself into the Rotation, and bringing a brand-new facet to the most lethal Starting Five in the league. It’s nothing short of cruel fate that for the second consecutive term, he will be entering Free Agency coming off a major injury. From the Warriors’ standpoint, this loss wasn’t going to harm them much against the Clippers, but it could loom rather large (no pun intended) in the latter stages of the Postseason, depending on their opponent. In the meantime, we’d imagine that Kerr & Co. are happy to welcome back the presence of one Andrew Bogut (3.5 PTS, 50.0% FG, 5.0 REB, 1.0 AST, 0.7 BLK, 13.4 PER), who after drifting between four teams over the past three seasons, was brought back to the franchise midyear as a potential insurance policy. The aging Australian Center has struggled to stay healthy since playing a role in Golden State’s first run to an NBA Title back in 2014-2015, but has performed admirably when called upon in this Series; Bogut has averaged 5.5 Points, 8.5 Rebounds, 3.0 Assists, and 0.8 Blocks in just over Sixteen Minutes of Play over the past four games, with those figures like to increase moving forward depending on the matchup. In Game Three’s victory he scored Eight Points and pulled down Fourteen Rebounds, with Five Assists, a Steal and a Block, while posting a stellar Plus/Minus of Plus-24 Points.
In what is likely to be the penultimate entry of this Series, the Warriors withstood the Clippers’ final assault, securing a commanding 3-1 Series Lead as a result. The 113-105 victory was closer than the final score would lead you to believe, for Los Angeles knifed into the deficit on multiple occasions, even taking the lead at one point in the Third Quarter. However, as has been the case throughout this Series, Golden State has yet to truly, legitimately feel threatened because their opposite number simply doesn’t have the requisite firepower to do so. This particular affair was a prime example; the visitors shot 47.2% from the field, including 12-of-31 from beyond the arc (38.7%), netted 17-of-19 Free-Throws (89.5%), Assisted on Twenty-Seven of their Forty-Two Field Goals, committed Thirteen Turnovers, and outrebounded the home side 49-33. The aforementioned Durant totaled a game-high Thirty-Three Points on 12-of-21 shooting (57.1%), including 3-of-6 from downtown (50.0%), along with Seven Rebounds, Six Assists, and a Steal, while the typically sharpshooting Curry struggled with just Twelve Points on a miserable 3-of-14 shooting (21.4%), including just 1-of-9 from three (11.1%), though did manage Ten Rebounds and Seven Assists despite being saddled with foul trouble. Curry has struggled with fouls in each of the last two games, whistled for Five in Game Three and Four in Game Four. For that matter, Bogut fouled out altogether after collecting Eight Points and Ten Rebounds, Fortunately for the reigning Champions, Sunday’s victory marked the re-emergence of his fellow Splash Brother, Klay Thompson (21.5 PTS, 46.7% FG, 40.2% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 2.4 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.6 BLK, 16.6 PER), who after a similarly quiet performance in Game Three, erupted for Thirty-Two Points on 12-of-20 shooting (60.0%), including 6-of-9 from long-range (66.7%), scoring Twenty-Seven Points in the First Half alone. It speaks to this team’s sheer skill level that even when they clearly weren’t on their best day, that they can still best a Postseason Opponent in such a manner, though it will be very interesting moving forward if they can continue to reach a higher ceiling when needed, as they have throughout this sensational five-year run of dominance.