DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21: Kevin Durant (35) of the Golden State Warriors argues a call with a referee as Stephen Curry (30) stands nearby during the second half of the Denver Nuggets' 100-98 win on Sunday, October 21, 2018. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Golden State Warriors at the Pepsi Center in Denver. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Golden State Warriors face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Let’s take a look at how each team compares against one another, as well as the x-factor and predict who advances to the next round.

NBA Playoffs: Warriors vs. Clippers Preview

The Warriors have the number one seed in the West for the fourth time in five years. The two-time defending champs face the eight-seed Clippers in the first round. The Warriors won the regular season series three games to one. Golden State will look to breeze through the first round, while Los Angeles hopes to catch them by surprise.

Like so many first-round matchups, Golden State is easily the heavy favorite and many expect them to sweep the series. After trading away Tobias Harris, many expected the Clippers were looking towards summer free agency. Instead, Los Angeles recorded 48 wins on the path to the postseason.

How does each of these teams stack up against each other? Is there a chance that the Clippers can catch the champs off-guard? Who is the x-factor in this Pacific Division matchup?

Let’s take a look at the first round preview between the Warriors and Clippers.

Tale of the Tape

The Warriors finished the season with a 57-25 record, good for best in the Western Conference. The Clippers notched a 48-34 record, tied with the San Antonio Spurs, but it resulted in the being the eighth seed for the NBA Playoffs. On paper, Golden State has the edge over its division rival.

The Warriors finished second in points per game, though the Clippers were not far behind at the fifth spot. Golden State’s offensive rating of 115.9 was first in the league, and their net rating of 6.4 ranked second in the league behind the Milwaukee Bucks. Los Angeles still managed to reach the top 10 in offensive rating (ninth overall) while also reaching the top ten in defensive rating. Meanwhile, Golden State ranks just 18th in overall defense.

But ultimately, the amount of pure talent on paper is what separates these two teams. Golden State has two premier players in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, who rank fifth and eighth in points per game this season. Curry and Klay Thompson rank in top ten for three-pointers made per game.

Meanwhile, the Clippers’ top scoring option is Lou Williams (averaging 20.0 ppg). Williams is a surefire candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, but it does not bode well when your sixth man is your top scoring option. Danilo Gallinari is Los Angeles’ second-ranked scorer and Montrezl Harrell is a nice spark off the bench. But in the NBA Playoffs, rotations shorten and star players are relied upon. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, a star player is the essential missing piece.

The X-Factor

As if the Warriors didn’t have enough firepower already, we cannot forget that DeMarcus Cousins will be making his first NBA Playoffs appearance. Though not fully back to his all-star form, Cousins has been playing strongly as of late against potential playoff opponents no less.

Cousins has averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Warriors so far this season. But his performance in a heightened and raucous environment should be an element to keep an eye on through the series. Cousins has had statistically strong regular seasons, but he has never played in the postseason.

The Warriors are largely expected to advance, so the key here will be to see how Cousins improves and if his play will become consistent for a deeper playoff run. The Clippers may not pose a huge threat, but future matchups could include Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets and Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder. How Cousins fares in this first round could be telling of his future performance.

Series Prediction

The Warriors boast one of the best offenses in the league, though the Clippers have held their own as well. Los Angeles has been better defensively throughout the regular season, but we have witnessed Golden State flip the switch in the postseason. It’s no debate that the Warriors have the superior offensive talent in comparison to the Clippers.

Golden State is -12.5 favorites for Saturday’s game against the Clippers, and with the bore of the regular season behind them, they should be focused on their title quest. Yes, the Clippers managed to knock off the champs once during the season (on the night of the infamous Draymond Green-Kevin Durant scuffle). But the playoffs are a different beast.

Expect the Warriors to sweep the series and advance to the second round of the playoffs. If the Clippers manage to steal one, it would likely be just a single game. Golden State should and likely will handle the Clippers easily.

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