OAKLAND — We might not have much of a series between the Warriors and Clippers, but we definitely will have action worth watching.
Thank you, Patrick Beverley.
And maybe he’ll coax a couple teammates to follow his lead.
When an NBA playoff series lacks competitive balance and natural team-vs.-team animosity, as Warriors-Clippers does, it needs a compelling cause or someone to stand up and start a fire. Say no more. Beverley carries a jug of kerosene everywhere he goes.
The bowlegged 6-foot-1 guard used his matchstick disposition Saturday in Game 1 to constantly scratch at Kevin Durant’s pride and patience, raising the intensity to such a degree that lead official Ed Malloy eventually felt it wise to send both to the showers.
The mini-skirmish wasn’t much, as these things go, but Malloy had seen enough to justify his decision. He and the other two officials spent much of the game watching Beverley play chicken with Durant’s exasperation point, and they didn’t want to see it get anywhere near fisticuffs.
“Seeing the highlights from [Game 1], I’m not sure anybody deserved to get kicked out of the game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It didn’t look that bad.
“But we’ve got to understand that we’re under the microscope. And if they’re going to call things pretty close, we’ve got to just ignore that stuff and go take care of business.”
When the teams gather for Game 2 on Monday night at Oracle Arena, we know where to look. Find Beverley, because you know he’s up to something in the vast space between silly and sinister.
Beverley usually is assigned to defend Stephen Curry; the two have a history of antagonism that has resulted in double technical fouls on multiple occasions. But Clippers coach Doc Rivers, realizing that has failed to influence Curry’s mind or curb his production, threw a wrinkle and sent Beverley after Durant, creating something of a bulldog-vs.-mailman tableau.
It didn’t work as well as the Clippers would have liked, but it was worth a try insofar as they know they can’t begin to match the Warriors’ sheer talent.
“We understand that they are champs,” Beverley said. “But that was the last couple years. It’s a new year now, and we want to go out there (in Game 2) and focus more offensively and try and get more stops.”
There are adjustments between every playoff game, coaching staffs reviewing video and looking for areas subtle and obvious to provide a different look. No matter what Rivers and Co. do, they likely feel there is a benefit to being physical. Maybe even extra physical.
So as Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell seek to repeat their Game 1 performances — keeping LA in the game by combining for 51 points on 22-of-36 shooting, 11 assists, eight rebounds and three steals — Beverley will do his part to make the decided underdogs interesting with a sharp tongue and the slightest hint of menace.
That, however, might be the best way to keep the Warriors engaged. When they’re facing a clearly inferior opponent, which describes 70 percent of the NBA, the Warriors are prone to bring sleepy eyes and foggy minds. Maybe they’ll play indifferent defense. Or perhaps they’ll seek to entertain at the cost of efficiency, tossing risky passes and trying tricky shots.
Or maybe they’ll get too involved with the officials. In addition to Durant being tossed, Draymond Green had a flare-up and DeMarcus Cousins couldn’t hide his frustration with calls.
If the Warriors do that enough times, or allow themselves to interact with officials, they’ll make this postseason harder than it needs to be, because they’ll play more playoff games than they should require.
“The way they play and how physical they were, stuff that Pat does, which makes him who he is, we’re ready for all of that,” Curry said.
The Clippers will unleash their pests, with Beverley taking the lead, because it’s the likeliest way to corrupt the Warriors’ concentration. The outcome might be predictable, but sometimes there is intrigue in seeing how the favorite handles it.