The Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 4-2 in the first round. The series was fiercely competitive and proved to be one of the better matchups so far this postseason. Let’s recap what we saw and what to look for going ahead.
Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers Series Recap
The Warriors drew their preferred first-round matchup once the regular season came to a close. The defending champs wanted to see the Clippers in the final eighth spot in the West. Among the reasons why: easier travel, the gap in superstar talent and favorable personnel advantages on the court. The matchup had “sweep” written all over it. If anything, Los Angeles might manage to steal a single game.
Instead, the first round matchup between the Warriors and Clippers proved to be fiercely competitive. After a big performance from Stephen Curry in a Game 1 win, Los Angeles evened the series in a historic Game 2. The Warriors blew a 31-point lead that sent the series to Los Angeles tied 1-1. Kevin Durant played like the best player in the world, as the Warriors won games 3 and 4 in L.A. to potentially close out the series at home in Game 5.
Yet once again, the Clippers surpassed expectations and avoided elimination. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, two sixth man of the year contenders, commanded Game 5 to bring the series 3-2 back to LA. But as we all know, Golden State has the ultimate luxury in Durant. Via a 50-point performance in Game 6, Durant led the Warriors to a victory that clinched the series 4-2.
Defending champs or most vulnerable?
Ask anyone and they would likely wonder: how in the world did we get a Game 6 between these two teams? We know that this Warriors team is perhaps the most vulnerable of this dynasty, but many assumed they would be truly challenged in the semifinals or conference finals. Sure, the Clippers could potentially steal a game in this series. But doing so via a 31-point comeback? And then to win once again on the road at Oracle? Los Angeles stealing two games was most certainly a shocker.
Golden State is still likely the heavy favorites, however, one would not be wrong to wonder if the Warriors can actually find themselves in the Finals once again. Durant has been on a tear, but it’s noteworthy that he’s had to shoulder this type of load already in the first round. Curry’s foul trouble and scoring struggles haven’t helped, and neither will Klay Thompson’s ankle sprain. The consistency and health of Golden State’s stars should be monitored closely next series.
A franchise ahead of schedule
The Clippers surpassed all expectations this year. Not only did they win 48 games, but they managed to take two games against the defending champs. A casual reminder that arguably their two best players, Williams and Harrell, put on a clinic while coming off the bench. The Clippers won two games with their bench leading the way, without a true superstar.
Their first-round performance is perhaps their best free agency pitch as they look ahead to the summer of 2019. After its series against the Warriors, Los Angeles proved that it is well-coached and has perhaps the best bench in the league. To top it off, they have young talent with high potentials like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet. The Clippers are ahead of schedule, and better yet, set for the future.
The Warriors were challenged by an eight seed that had superior bench depth but was lacking superstar talent. is playing outstanding basketball, but against the Houston Rockets, he cannot do it alone. Curry again rolled his ankle, though it’s been deemed a mild sprain. On the contrary, Thompson’s sprain was more severe, while both players are questionable heading into the semifinals.
The defending champs will have their work cut out for them in the next round, and the series could go seven games if the Warriors do not correct their mistakes. They must get healthier, avoid the costly mistakes that are easily preventable and play consistent basketball both on the offensive and defensive end.
The Clippers now look ahead to the summer of free agency, but after their postseason performance, they could not be more confident. They have the cap flexibility to land two superstar players, but they should focus on landing one star first. After stealing two games against Golden State, on the road no-less, chances are that the Clippers made themselves a hot spot for free agents come July 1st.
DENVER, CO – OCTOBER 21: Draymond Green (23) of the Golden State Warriors and Kevin Durant (35) question the referee after a defensive foul call against Green during the first half 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)