Warriors

NBA playoffs 2019: Who has edge in Warriors-Clippers first-round series?

NBA playoffs 2019: Who has edge in Warriors-Clippers first-round series?

With the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs closing their respective seasons with wins, the Warriors' first-round opponent is confirmed: They'll play the LA Clippers.

These two teams have history dating back to 2014, when Golden State took the Clippers to seven games in the first-round playoff season. It was the last series of Mark Jackson's coaching career.

Now, five years later, the No. 1 seeded Warriors are overwhelming favorites, hoping to make this series short and sweet.

Here are the biggest things to watch heading into the series. 

Projected starting lineups 

Warriors
F Kevin Durant 
F Draymond Green
C DeMarcus Cousins
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Clippers
F Danilo Gallinari 
C Ivica Zubac
G Patrick Beverly
G Landry Shamet 
G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

While the Clippers have a promising young core of Zubac, Gilgeous-Alexander and Shamet, the Warriors have established star power.

Curry has averaged 32.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in three games against the Clippers this season. Meanwhile, Durant has poured in 27.0 points on 54 percent from the field in four games against LA this year. Add Green, Thompson and Boogie Cousins, and you can see why Golden State is the favorite to win the title. 

The Warriors are the most talented team in this series and it starts with their future-Hall of Fame core. 

Edge: Warriors

Bench

The Clippers have the best bench in the league, averaging 53 points per game (entering Wednesday). The unit is led by Lou Williams, one of the best sixth men of all time, who's averaging 20 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists. The bench is also bolstered by Montrezl Harrell and defensive ace Patrick Beverley, who is sure to get under Curry's skin. 

Meanwhile, Golden State's bench has struggled this season, ranking near the bottom of the league in bench scoring. However, in Tuesday's win over New Orleans, the unit poured in a season-high 65 points, the team's best output in four years. 

Still, this might the only advantage the Clippers have on the champs.

Edge: Clippers

Coaching

The job Doc Rivers has done with this year's iteration of the Clippers has been remarkable. Despite no clear star player and the team trading Tobias Harris, the Clippers have reached the postseason for the first time since 2017, marking arguably Rivers' best performance as a head coach. 

[RELATED: Kerr provides positive update on Curry's foot sprain]

Meanwhile, Kerr has had a rocky year working through the ebs and flows of star player disagreements, injuries and trying to maintain focus throughout the chase for a third straight NBA title. Still, Kerr is still among the league's premier coaches, evidenced by the Warriors securing the best six-year run in NBA history. 

Edge: Draw

Warriors vs. Grizzlies watch guide: Lineups, injuries, player usage

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AP

Warriors vs. Grizzlies watch guide: Lineups, injuries, player usage

In a battle featuring two teams in different stages of rebuilding, the foundering Warriors face the suddenly resurgent Grizzlies on Tuesday at FedEx Forum in Memphis.

Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 4 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 5:10.

The Warriors (2-12) own the longest losing streak in the NBA this season, seven games, dating back to Nov. 6. It’s their longest string of defeats since April 2012, when they lost eight in a row.

Though the Warriors have not lost a season series to Memphis since 2012-13 (0-3), they have lost at least once at FedEx Forum in 11 consecutive seasons, including each of the last three.

The Grizzlies (5-8), early in a full rebuild, opened the season losing five of their first six games under first-year coach Taylor Jenkins. They are showing signs of improvement, though, going 4-3 since then. They have won three of their last four.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors

F – Eric Paschall F – Draymond Green C – Willie Cauley-Stein G – Glenn Robinson III G – Ky Bowman

Grizzlies

F – Jae Crowder F – Jaren Jackson Jr. C – Jonas Valanciunas G – Dillon Brooks G – Ja Morant

 

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Stephen Curry (L hand fracture), G Jacob Evans III (L adductor strain), G Damion Lee (R hand non-displaced fracture), F Kevon Looney (neuropathy), F Alen Smailagic and G Klay Thompson (R ACL rehab) are listed as out.

Grizzlies: G Grayson Allen (L ankle soreness) is listed as out. F Andre Iguodala is not with the team.

 

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors: Whether Warriors coach Steve Kerr stays with the unusual lineup that started Sunday in New Orleans (with Green starting at PG) remains to be seen. The slow start in that game (down 10-2 after three minutes, trailing by as much as 14 in the first half) could force a more conventional approach . . . Undrafted rookie PG, who had 19 points and four assists in 28 minutes off the bench, made a strong case for starting, particularly with fellow rookie Morant at the point for Memphis . . . Though rookie SG Jordan Poole remains mired in a shooting slump, the Warriors are encouraged that it has not affected his defense. The effort is there on that end, and the belief is his shots could start falling any day now . . . Today’s player availability count: Nine.

Grizzlies: Though the team is built around Morant, the overall No. 2 pick in the June draft, rookie SF Brandon Clarke (No. 21 overall) has been terrific off the bench, averaging 12.3 ppg and 21.9 mpg . . . The Grizzlies lead the league in paint points, averaging 55.0 per game, and Valanciunas is a big reason for that. He has scored in double figures in 12 consecutive games. Only two teams are more forgiving in the paint than the Warriors, whose opponents average 51.9 per game . . . Picking up on the ball movement trend, the Grizzlies averaged 29.4 assists over their last seven games . . . They also have made at least 10 triples in each of those seven consecutive games, matching a franchise record.

Officials: Kevin Scott (crew chief), Marat Kogut, Natalie Sago.

How young Warriors are making incremental improvements on defense

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USATSI

How young Warriors are making incremental improvements on defense

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For much of the season, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has tried to find the anecdote to his struggling defense. 

The problem has been exasperated in the last month, as seven players have gone done with injuries, eliminating any hope of continuity. However, the undermanned unit has shown improvement over its last two games, giving Kerr hope going forward. 

"As a group, team and coaches have started to figure out what works well for this team and what we need to stay away from," Kerr said Tuesday afternoon. 

Seeds of optimism started in Friday's loss to the Celtics, when the Warriors held the Eastern Conference leaders to just 40 percent from the field, with Boston guard Kemba Walker making just 6 of his 19 shots. Two days later, the Warriors held the battered Pelicans to 41 percent from the field. More importantly, the league's worst interior defense has outscored their opponents 88-80 in the paint over the last two outings. 

For the last five years, the Warriors have used a switch-heavy defense, helping the unit become one of the best in the league. Over the stretch, Golden State finished in the top 10 in defensive rating in four of the five seasons. Now, with Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant gone -- and both Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney out of the lineup -- the Warriors are giving up nearly 120 points per game. 

"We were just giving up too many easy baskets early in the season," Kerr said. 

The Warriors defensive woes have coincided with its uncommon rash of injuries. The trend started on the eve of training camp, when general manager Bob Myers announced that center Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage. 

In the last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Draymond Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. Last week, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand. All the while, one of the league's most vaunted defense has plummeted to last in the league. 

[RELATED: Bowman must adapt when Warriors are healthy]

However, the team still has shown moments of potential. A few weeks ago, the Warriors held the Charlotte Hornets -- one of the league's best 3-point shooting teams -- to just 17 percent from beyond the arc, taking a brief lead with just over a minute left in regulation. Two nights later, the Warriors beat the Portland Trail Blazers, limiting guard CJ McCollum to just 37 percent from the field. 

Now, as they embark on their latest road trip, Kerr would like to see an improvement in the Warriors' perimeter defense. In Sunday's loss to the Pelicans, his team gave up 18 3-pointers, including six from sharpshooter JJ Redick. Still, for a team prioritizing development over wins at the moment, the defensive improvement is noteworthy.