Warriors will win Round 1 of NBA playoffs, but Clippers will go down fighting

Warriors will win Round 1 of NBA playoffs, but Clippers will go down fighting

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.

[RELATED: KD vows to control self after taking Beverley's bait]

“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.

Andrew Bogut explains how becoming father changed his life perspective

Andrew Bogut explains how becoming father changed his life perspective

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Wednesday night at 6, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Andrew Bogut and his wife have two kids. The oldest is about 2 1/2 years old, and the youngest is about 9 months old.

That means the big man wasn't a father during his first run with the Warriors, which ended in July 2016 when he was traded to Dallas.

“Having two kids totally changed his life,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told Ethan Strauss of The Athletic. “He’s no longer a cynic. He’s just as smart and wise and fun.

"He’s always been a really good dude.”

Bogut agrees that being a father has changed his outlook on life.

“If you do lose or play bad, you get to go home to two kids who don’t give a s--t about it, so it’s a pretty cool thing," Bogut explained to The Athletic. "You can get home from whatever you’re doing, and when you’ve got two kids and one of them s--ts themselves, and you’ve got to change the diaper, you kind of forget about all the bad things you’re going through.”

Speaking as somebody who became a father three months ago, this is absolutely correct.

Bogut -- who started five games during the regular season -- jumped center in Games 3 and 4 of the NBA playoff series against the Clippers in place of the injured DeMarcus Cousins:
Game 3 = eight points, 14 rebounds, five assists, steal, block
Game 4 = eight points, 10 rebounds, four assists

He's helping on the court and in the locker room, where he's respected by all.

[RELATEDBogut gives interesting response to Embiid's 3-1 Dubs joke]

“He’s still an a--hole, that ain't changed,” Kevon Looney told The Athletic, while smiling. “But he was always nice to his teammates, and he’s great to me. I say he’s probably the smartest, one of the smartest basketball players I ever played with.

"Him and Andre [Iguodala] and Draymond [Green], IQ level is crazy.”

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Rockets GM Daryl Morey agrees facing Warriors in semis could be better

Rockets GM Daryl Morey agrees facing Warriors in semis could be better

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Wednesday night at 6, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

On the last day of the NBA's regular season, the following two things happened:
1) The Blazers -- who rested their top guys and only played six players -- erased a 28-point deficit and beat the Kings
2) The Nuggets -- who were down at home by 11 points with a little over three minutes left -- stormed back and beat the Wolves

As a result, Denver finished with the No. 2 seed and Portland with the No. 3 seed.

The main takeaway? The Rockets entered the playoffs at No. 4 seed, which meant a potential showdown with the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. It became impossible for there to be a rematch between Golden State and Houston in the West Finals.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey was recently a guest on The Bill Simmons Podcast and he was asked if potentially facing the Warriors one round earlier could actually be beneficial.

"It's very hard to know. We can't control it. To be frank, we don't spend a lot of time on it but we have talked about it internally," Morey said. "It could work in our favor but it's very hard to know.

"As much as we could get injured, so could they. All I know is that we pretty much knew we were gonna have to beat them, so does the order really matter? Probably not. It would have been nice to get homecourt like last year.

"I think that could be a big factor -- last year at Oracle, their fans are great -- I do think not having homecourt is a factor. I do think we're a better team going into the series. Maybe our odds are similar to last year.

"We do feel very strongly we have a real shot at it. But obviously, they're the champs three of the last four years for a reason."

Simmons followed up by saying: "I was looking at it more like from a health standpoint. The longer the playoffs go, and especially, you know Chris (Paul) has battled nagging injuries his entire career -- you just know that if you can get through this Utah series..."

"We are slightly older than them, so yeah it could work in our favor, yeah," Morey said.

[RELATEDBogut gives interesting response to Embiid's 3-1 Dubs joke]

The health variable is a very fair point. The Rockets currently are up three-games-to-none on the Jazz in their first-round series. And if they complete the sweep in Utah on Monday night, they will get a solid chunk of time to rest before a potential series against the Dubs starts this weekend (assuming the Warriors beat the Clippers in Game 5 on Wednesday).

The rematch seems inevitable at this point and the basketball world deserves both teams to be fully healthy.

Make it happen, Basketball Gods.

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