Series preview: Clippers vs. Warriors
Our 5-on-5 crew breaks down the first-round matchup between the Clippers and Warriors:
1. What's the scariest thing -- good or bad -- about the Clippers?
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: They don't seem to run out of weapons. Let's pretend they're totally healthy this round. Blake Griffin can do anything against your defense. Jamal Crawford can carve you up. Watch outside shooting from Redick, Dudley, Barnes and Collison. Don't let Jordan get the lob. Oh, and make sure to keep an eye on Chris Paul when he has the ball in his hands. Almost too many options.
Arash Markazi, ESPNLosAngeles.com: The Clippers have arguably two of the top five players in the league right now in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and that's a scary sight for any team that has to play them in the postseason. This is usually the time of year when superstars take over, and the Clippers have two of the best, combined now with one of the best coaches in the league in Doc Rivers.
Ramona Shelburne, ESPNLosAngeles.com: We've seen visions of what this Clippers team can be, but never for very long stretches. So as they enter the playoffs -- healthy, for perhaps the first time all season -- we're about to see what this group can do with some cohesiveness. The Clippers' starting five of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes will be making just their fifth start together on Saturday.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, TrueHoop: Chris Paul might be L.A.'s best player, but Blake Griffin is their scariest force. Blake is a human tidal wave on the break, and he consistently humiliates opponents in the air. That's fairly scary.
David Thorpe, ESPN Insider: They can destroy you above and below the rim if you are missing shots. That transition game can energize them while deflating the Warriors.
2. What's the scariest thing -- good or bad -- about the Warriors?
Harper: Steph Curry is a human flamethrower. Watching him dribble up the court in transition will bring you to the edge of your seat because you have no clue if he's going to shoot or when he's going to shoot. Hesitate to step out on him and the best 3-point shooter of all time will fire. Play up too tightly in transition and he'll drive right past you. Don't let him remain hot.
Markazi: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are capable of getting hot at any time and when they're on, there's very little the Clippers can do despite leading the league in 3-point defense. The Warriors also have one of the best home-court advantages in the league. Matt Barnes said he would talk to his teammates about it. The Clippers haven't won in Oakland since Dec. 25, 2012, which was the season opener for the lockout-shortened season. Their previous win at Oracle Arena before that was Nov. 6, 2009.
Shelburne: Steph Curry's ability to erupt. You know he can, you've seen him do it, but I still think people underestimate the impact he can have on these playoffs. When he's on, like he was last year in that first-round upset of the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors play with a mandate.
Strauss: Before it might have been a blindside screen from Andrew Bogut, but now we'll have to settle on a more predictable answer: Stephen Curry is terrifying. Not many defenses are set up to deal with a guy who can efficiently fling contested 3-pointers off the dribble. This will be a big test for DeAndre Jordan, who must race far beyond the friendly confines of the paint when defending high screens for Curry.
Thorpe: It's called "the Curry effect". He is just that special of a shooter.
3. Who's the biggest X factor in this series?
Harper: David Lee. Lee is probably going to be the main big in a few small-ball lineups. His defense can't be atrocious and his offense has to contribute to the flow of what the Warriors are doing, not detract from it. If Lee can give the Warriors 75 percent of what Griffin gives the Clippers, the Warriors might be all right.
Markazi: Jamal Crawford was the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year when he went down Feb. 26 with a strained left calf and missed eight of the next nine games. He went down again a month later with the same injury and missed five games. There was a time when Doc Rivers wasn't sure if he'd get the same old Crawford or if he would even play again this season, but Crawford ended the season with 34 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds against Portland. If the Clippers finally have the old Crawford back as their sixth man, they'll be a tough out for anybody.
Shelburne: Blake Griffin. Yes, he's having his best season as a professional and should've answered everyone's questions about his game and maturity by now. But the Warriors are going to test him. No, punk him. This series is about what Golden State does to Griffin and how he responds to it. Will he rise above? Fight back? Or be dragged down into the muck?
Strauss: Draymond Green's performance will go a long way toward determining how this series goes. If he can capably guard Blake Griffin while hitting some open 3s, the Warriors are in business. If he can't do either, they're doomed.
Thorpe: I look at Chris Paul. If he intends to destroy everything in his path, as he has before in the playoffs, the Clips reach a new level. If he spends more time as just a game manager, they don't.
4. What's one BOLD prediction for this series?
Harper: DeAndre Jordan will dominate two games of this series. Eventually the Warriors will adjust to his presence on the floor, but David Lee and Jermaine O'Neal can't jump with him. Jordan could break out with big defensive efforts and control the boards. Not sure how the Warriors handle him, other than putting him on the line constantly.
Markazi: Not sure if this is bold, considering the history between these two teams, but there will be a fight before the end of Game 1. Multiple players will be ejected by the end of Game 2 and at least one player will get suspended by the end of the series. These two teams do not like each other, and emotions will certainly get the better of some players during the series.
Shelburne: I think this is actually going to be a much lower-scoring, defensive-minded series than people anticipate. The Clippers have been transitioning from an up-and-down style into a more traditional half-court orientation in anticipation of the playoffs since the trade deadline. Hence the addition of lane-clogger (notice I didn't say rim protector?) Glen Davis and insertion of Matt Barnes into the starting lineup. Losing Bogut might compel the Warriors to push the pace, but I just have the sense this series isn't going to be played at 80 knots every night.
Strauss: Blake Griffin will dunk on Jermaine O'Neal. Poor Jermaine. He's a veteran backup, thrust into big minutes. He's going to get caught at least once by the Flyin' Lion.
Thorpe: The Clippers will break the one game playoff record for dunks and threes.
5. Who wins this series and in how many games?
Harper: Clippers in six games. Could have been a legendary series with a healthy Andrew Bogut.
Markazi: The Clippers will win in seven games. The Warriors may have had a better chance to win this series with Andrew Bogut and a healthy David Lee, but as it is, it's going to be hard for the Warriors to contain Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the paint while playing small ball. They'll get hot from the outside and win a couple of games, but in the end it won't be enough.
Shelburne: It's got to go seven, right? These two teams, with their history, bad blood and star power, are destined for a great extended series, right? Anything less and we'll all be disappointed. I'm going to roll with the Clippers because I just think it's their time, and Golden State is really going to miss Andrew Bogut. But I just can't count out Mark Jackson's bunch, who could be playing to save his job.
Strauss: The Warriors put up a fight, but the Clippers win this one securely. I say it goes six games, ending in an easy victory at Oracle.
Thorpe: Clippers in five is what makes sense to me, possibly six of course based on the Curry effect alone.