Better Matchup for the Dubs: Clippers or Rockets?
Holding just a two game lead on both Dallas and Phoenix for the 8-seed in the West, the Warriors have by no means secured a playoff berth at this point. While it may fly in the face of everything Warriors fans have experienced over the years, for the purpose of this article I will assume we’re going to make the playoffs. After all, we’re not looking backwards at the Suns and Mavs, we’re looking ahead at the 5-seed that we covet, and the Blazer squad that’s been confused for a team that’s Riggin for Wiggins the last month or so. The Dubs trail the Blazers by just one game for the 5-seed, with one game left in Portland on April 13. That game, the third-to-last for the Warriors, could decide whether they get a 5-seed and likely play the Rockets, or a 6-seed and likely play the Clippers.
Who presents the better matchup for the Warriors, the Clippers or Rockets? To start, let’s focus on the Clippers. The Warriors went 2-2 against them this year, with the home team winning every outing. In their last matchup, the Warriors were absolutely manhandled as Blake Griffin went for 30 and 15 and Danny Granger had his best performance of the season, going 7-11 from the field for 18 points and 6 boards. The good news is that Danny Granger probably won’t do that again. The bad news is that Blake Griffin has developed an offensive game that is an extremely bad matchup for the Warrior bigs. He’s simply too quick for Bogut and O’Neal, and when those guys back off him he’s developed a consistent enough jumper to make them pay. And while I believe D-Lee has been doing a much better job on the defensive end the second half of the season, he’s still a 6-9 power forward that can’t do anything but wave at Griffin as he blows by.
The Clips have also been red-hot of late, winning 13 of 14. They also hold a 30-5 record at home — a distinct advantage when they’re the higher seed. Yet their biggest difference from Clippers squads of years past is the addition of Doc Rivers, who, you know…actually cares about defense and developing players. Something our bud Vinny Del Negro never seemed to understand.
Plus they have Chris Paul who is, without a doubt, the best point guard in the league, and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He limited Steph to under 20 points twice this year (although Curry did have a 38-point outburst in a loss), and if we learned anything in the playoffs last year, it’s that Curry needs to have a few hot streaks for the Dubs to win a playoff series. That will be infinitely more difficult with Chris Paul guarding him.
The Rockets present an entirely different set of problems for the Dubs. Defensively, the Warriors match up well with the Rockets. When Klay is guarding James Harden, he has the length to challenge jumpers and the lateral quickness to stay in front without committing fouls — even more important considering Harden shoots nine free throws a game. The second piece of the Rockets Big Three, Dwight Howard, had a tough time against the Warriors in the three matchups this year. He shot just 51 percent, down from his season average of 59, but he dominated on the glass, averaging over 16 boards per game. Then there’s Chandler Parsons, primarily defended by Andre Iguodala, who was limited to just 39 percent shooting against the Dubs.
On the offensive end, the Warriors’ outside shooting beautifully combats the Rockets’ biggest strength, protecting the paint. Obviously the bulk of the Warriors’ production comes from the Splash Bros.’ outside shooting, while Dwight Howard and Omer Asik (when he plays) are both terrific interior defenders. It’s true that Parsons and Patrick Beverley are plus perimeter defenders, although neither is on the same level as Chris Paul. James Harden, meanwhile, is notoriously awful on D and therefore exploitable.
From a purely “Advance-First” attitude, the preferable matchup is obvious — the Rockets. However, from a fan wanting to see a blood-thirsty, seven game series that could involve multiple elbows and punches delivered, it would be beyond entertaining to watch the Clips and Dubs go at it.
Who could say no to at least four more games of this?