A rare matchup of point guards

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors-Clippers series could be decided at the point guard spot.The NBA playoffs kick off Saturday afternoon and one of the more intriguing first round matchups will take place in Los Angeles.

The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers have already exchanged pre-series barbs making it clear the two teams are not fond of one another. But this series should be just as entertaining on the court, as it features two of the league’s best point guards – Chris Paul and Stephen Curry.

Elite point guards

Paul and Curry both averaged at least 19 points and eight assists per game this season.

The last time two point guards faced off in the playoffs with such averages? The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that it was in 1991.

That would be Magic Johnson and Tim Hardaway. The two faced off in the 1991 Western Conference Semifinals, with the Lakers winning the series four games to one.

And the point guards did not disappoint. In game two of that series, the Warriors won 125-124 with Hardaway totaling 28 points, 14 assists and eight steals. Johnson? Well he put up 44 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in the loss.

Postseason form

Curry and Paul have stepped their games up during the playoffs.

Last postseason, Curry averaged 23.4 points per game and 8.1 assists, while making 3.5 three-pointers per game. That is the third-highest single postseason average all-time (minimum five games in that postseason).

Most memorable was Curry’s 44-point, 11-assist performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Spurs last season.

Paul, on the other hand, is one of two players all-time with averages of 20 points and nine assists per game in the playoffs (Deron Williams).

Inside the matchup

There are a few key spots in which this matchup could be determined.

Curry averages an NBA-high 10.3 pull-up shots per game, shooting 43.6 percent on such shots according to NBA.com player tracking.

Turnovers, however, have been an issue for Curry. He was tied for the league-lead, averaging 3.8 turnovers per game this season. That bodes well for Paul, as he led the NBA averaging 2.5 steals per game. In fact, during their first meeting this season, Curry committed 11 turnovers and Paul had six steals.

This season Paul averaged an NBA-best 8.8 points per game as the pick-and-roll ball handler. That could be a way in which Paul could exploit Curry’s defense. For example, in Game 5 of the 2013 Western Conference semifinals, the Spurs made 11-of-16 shots and scored 30 points when Curry was the on-ball defender.