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Sounding the Game 7 Alarm: Clippers Warriors Playoffs 2014

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Zach Lowe writes why tomorrow's games will be awesome:

Oh, hey, you had plans Saturday? Like, plans to be a human being — to perhaps enjoy a glass of the magic elixir called “beer,” or to investigate this yellowish orb that seems to be lighting up whatever exists outside your window?


The NBA has no time for your pursuit of humanity. There are three Game 7s on Saturday, and the way things have been going, we’ll probably get three more on Sunday. With previews of Friday’s elimination games up and running, here are some addled and hasty thoughts on Saturday’s Game 7s.

Golden State–Los Angeles

Sometimes shit just happens. The X’s and O’s tilt every series, and it certainly matters how the Clippers are defending those pesky Stephen Curry pick-and-rolls; whether smaller Golden State lineups with the David Lee/Draymond Green duo, or even super-small lineups with just one of those guys, can win the offense/defense trade-off; how often the Clippers are willing to switch the Curry/Andre Iguodala pick-and-roll that has increasingly become a weapon in this series; and whether Golden State finds the right balance in pursuing all those post-ups from Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Iguodala.

Maximizing all those things on the fringes absolutely matters, but sometimes random nonsense just happens. Jordan Crawford and Marreese Speights toss in some unexpected points; J.J. Redick misses a bunch of open 3s; DeAndre Jordan mistimes his jump and loses a crucial rebound after an ugly Barnes post-up with 1:20 left and the Dubs up only two; Iguodala nails some crazy jumper over Jordan with the shot clock running down. Winning a close playoff series is about tilting the X’s-and-O’s edge just a hair your way, and then hoping the lucky stuff at least evens out.

To wit: Chris Paul is hobbled, and that may really be all that matters here. He could not push off easily in Game 6, which meant he could not chase Curry around off-ball screens. He flat lost Curry a few times, and then surrendered and began asking for switches. The Warriors on the other end were willing to switch Draymond Green onto Paul with more impunity, and even to chance a few possessions with Curry and Jordan Crawford on him. Some of those switches left Thompson on Blake Griffin, and the Clippers were mostly unable to take advantage.

The Clippers went small early in the fourth quarter of Game 6 to match a super-small Golden State lineup, and any group with Paul, Griffin, and three shooters around them should be impossible to defend. Just run a Paul/Griffin pick-and-roll and see what emerges. But that lineup couldn’t gain any traction, and the Clippers in the last 90 seconds played through Jamal Crawford instead of Paul.

The Clips can still win this thing with Paul hobbled. He’s still a presence that must be honored. Green has done wonderfully in the post on Griffin over the last two games, but Griffin can get him into foul trouble, and David Lee has as much shot against Griffin down low as I do at this point. We have no clue if Jermaine O’Neal can even play.

The Warriors have mixed up coverages on Griffin, and when they doubled in Game 6, their rotations scrambling around after Griffin’s kickout passes were mostly on point.

The Clippers have rebounded 29.2 percent of their own misses in this series, a number that would have trailed only Detroit (remember the miserable Pistons?) in the regular season, and the damage has been uglier when the Dubs play with just one of the Lee/Green/O’Neal trio. But those small Golden State lineups are borderline impossible to guard, with so much shooting and passing all over the floor.

The Clips can go small along with those groups, but doing so means removing one of the Griffin/Jordan combination, and an underplayed story of this season has been Doc Rivers’s inability to find a small-ball combination that really works. Hedo Turkoglu and Danny Granger work only in short stretches, if at all; Granger has played more small forward in this series, and Turkoglu is basically shot. Jared Dudley has faded to oblivion, and Big Baby Davis, the third big who might introduce some flexibility, has been a disaster.

That has left the Clips to often stay big, hiding Jordan on Iguodala and hoping Jordan can hurt Harrison Barnes on the other end. Wanna win this series? Make the little plays like Thompson did here in a gritty bit of gang rebounding to help ease the size disadvantage Golden State faces:

The Warriors have done their best without Andrew Bogut as their ace screener and last line of defense. They’ve made themselves hard to guard when they take care of the ball. Mark Jackson’s job might be in jeopardy, but he has mostly coached a good series. He realizes the Warriors can win this thing only one way, and he has the team playing that way.

Paul’s hamstring is a bummer, and a reminder that injuries impact the title chase every season. We shouldn’t really need this reminder anymore, but it’s worth remembering the next time some screaming lunatic shouts about why Player X has “NO RINGZZZ,” as if getting one is easy.

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