The 2019 NBA playoffs are finally here, and the Warriors have the first-round matchup set. Owners of the top seed in the Western Conference, the Dubs will be playing a seven-game series against the Los Angeles Clippers, who rang in at the no. 8 and final spot in the playoff standings.
LA has undergone quite a transformation since their former-Lob City days, when their starting five included stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and JJ Redick. Paul went to the Rockets, Griffin to the Pistons, Jordan (making the latest exit of the four) moved on to Dallas this past off-season and has since been traded to the New York Knicks, and former Duke star JJ Redick is playing for the fast-rising Philadelphia 76ers.
Those former Clipper teams, coached by Doc Rivers, were incredibly athletic and posed scores of problems for the Warriors during the beginning of their recent run of playoff appearances. However, while Doc's current Clipper group has heart, they are much less talented than his teams of old. LA will run a starting unit of F Danilo Gallinari, G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G Landry Shamet, C Ivica Zubac, and G Patrick Beverley out on the floor against Golden State, beginning in Oakland, this Saturday, at 5:00 PM PT.
LA had a bit of a face lift during the 2018-'19 regular season, sending their best player, Tobias Harris, to the 76ers — in a multi-team trade — receiving in return Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, and Mike Muscala. Aside from the aforementioned players, the transaction also netted a bevy of draft picks for the Clippers, including: Philadelphia's protected 2020 first-round pick, and unprotected 2021 and 2022 second-round picks courtesy of the Detroit Pistons.
The Clippers are certainly a scrappy group, a hodgepodge of older vets and green youngsters, with coach Rivers having to work magic getting the group into the West's competitive postseason field. Down the stretch, in the regular season, LA was battling for position among the sixth, seventh, and eighth seeds with the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. A first-round bout with the Clippers represents, by far, the path of least resistance for the Dubs, as this will likely end in a sweep for the three-peat-seeking Warriors.
Yet, the games must be played. At 48-34, the Clippers had a very solid regular season campaign and is more talented than your typical "barely above .500" eighth seed. They actually finished with the same record as coach Greg Popovich's Spurs, with San Antonio getting the nod at the seventh spot, owning the tie-breaker. The Warriors and Clippers met four times, this season, with the Bay's team taking three of the four. The Dubs' lone loss was a 121-116 overtime loss back in November at the Staples Center.
What Bay Area fans must know is that a Doc Rivers-coached team will fight, scratch, claw, grind, and never quit, especially in a playoff series against the Warriors–their one-time rival. However, solace can be taken in the fact that Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will have plenty to say about that when the time comes.
Photo: Derick Story