Aside from the constant refrain of whether the Clippers and Golden State Warriors dislike or hate each other, their first-round Western Conference playoff series has the potential to be very entertaining.
The Clippers have two All-Stars in point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin, who are considered among the best players in the NBA.
The Warriors have a dynamic young backcourt of All-Star point guard Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who are considered perhaps the best-shooting guard combo in the league, earning the duo the nickname “Splash Brothers” because of their prolific outside shooting.
In the regular season, the Clippers led the league in scoring (107.9 points per game) and the Warriors were 10th (104.3). The Clippers ranked third in field-goal percentage (47.4%), the Warriors ninth (46.2%). The Warriors were fourth in three-point field-goal percentage (38%), while the Clippers had the league’s top defense against three-point shots, holding teams to 33.2% shooting.
And the teams split the season series, 2-2.
“I think we’re two similar teams that historically have been toward the bottom and have a chance to fight for a title now,” Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. “So there’s going to be some hostility and animosity and hatred.”
Here’s a look at the matchup between the Clippers and Warriors:
GUARDS: Paul and J.J. Redick against Curry and Thompson. Paul, whom many consider the best point guard in the NBA, led the league in assists (10.7) and steals (2.48). Redick, who’s in constant motion, shot 45.5% from the field, 39.5% from three-point range. Curry, widely considered the best shooter in the NBA, and Thompson, who will defend Paul, were ranked first and second, respectively, in three-point field goals made, the first time a team had the top two players in that category. Curry hit 261 three-pointers, while Thompson had 223.
FORWARDS: Griffin and Matt Barnes versus David Lee and Andre Iguodala. Griffin took his game to another level during the regular season. He led the Clippers in scoring (24.1 points) and was second in rebounds (9.5). Barnes is able to score without any plays being run for him, and he’s the team’s best perimeter defender. Lee (18.2 points, 9.3 rebounds) has been solid all season and Iguodala is the Warriors’ do-everything man.
CENTER: DeAndre Jordan against Golden State’s Jermaine O’Neal, 35, who is starting in place of injured Andrew Bogut (fractured right rib). Jordan had the best season of his career, averaging 10.4 points and an NBA-best 13.6 rebounds. The Warriors will miss Bogut because he anchored their defense and is a good passer and rebounder. O’Neal played in just 44 games this season, averaging 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 20 minutes a game.
BENCH: The Clippers have one of the best benches in the league with Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison, Glen Davis, Danny Granger (if he’s healthy), Jared Dudley and Hedo Turkoglu. The Warriors’ reserve unit of Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Steve Blake, Marreese Speights and Jordan Crawford has been good all season.
COACHES: Doc Rivers against Golden State’s Mark Jackson. Rivers has won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and lost in the NBA Finals two years later to the Lakers. Jackson took the Warriors to the Western Conference semifinals last season.
INTANGIBLES: The team that won the rebounding battle won each game as the Clippers and Warriors split the four-game series. The Clippers turned the ball over just 13.3 times per game, sixth-best in the league this season, while the Warriors turned the ball over 14.9 times per game.
PICK: Clippers in six games.