Russell Westbrook and the Clippers are hoping to defeat the Warriors tomorrow.
Before the All-Star break, the Clippers were riding high in the rankings. At the time, they had won 10 of their 14 games and were seventh in the West with a 33-28 record. With three consecutive losses after the break, LA’s momentum is all but gone.
Their three defeats have coincided with the three games in which their new addition, Russell Westbrook, has appeared. Naturally, Westbrook is blamed since he is a popular punching bag. Looking at the figures, Westbrook has been a minus-14 in his first three games with his new squad. When those figures are compared to the Clippers’ loss margins in those games, they don’t look good (a combined 17 points).
Although Westbrook isn’t perfect, he isn’t the only one who has struggled in the last three games. In their defeats against the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves, Eric Gordon had a collective minus-29. Marcus Morris and Mason Plumlee combined for a minus-32 in the team’s defeat against the Denver Nuggets.
All of these figures add up to one thing. Then then, who doesn’t? They’re not only integrating Westbrook as the starting point guard, but they’ve also added a new bench in Gordon, Plumlee, and former starter Terance Mann.
Starting from scratch during the season is difficult in the hyper-competitive West. A miscalculated victory or loss may knock the Clippers out of sixth place and into the play-in round. The club, particularly Westbrook, desperately needs a big win right now.
Although the Clippers are beginning from over with a new point guard, the Warriors are managing to keep afloat in the absence of their superstar point player.
Curry has missed nine games due to a leg ailment, and the Warriors have won five. More significantly, they’ve won three consecutive games since the All-Star break. This puts them at 32-30 for the season, maintaining consistent at fifth place in the West.
There are many explanations behind the Warriors’ current winning streak. Klay Thompson is the first. The lone Splash Brother has taken over as the team’s primary scorer. He’s averaged 32.3 points and seven 3-pointers per game over the previous three games. Thompson breaking out of his shell to lead Golden State to important victories is refreshing for someone who has been a backup option for much of his career.
Jordan Poole is the second reason. After receiving a large deal early, Poole has been inconsistent most of the season. Yet, with Curry sidelined, the club was forced to rely on him as their starting point guard. Poole has reacted with outstanding play. He has been a team leader in assists over the last nine games, averaging 6.3 per game. He also showed that he could still outscore the best of them. Thompson was held scoreless in their previous victory. Thus Poole led the team with 29 points.
Thompson and Poole are hitting their stride for the Warriors at the perfect moment. This is ideal since Curry is expected to return as soon as next week. All Golden State has to do is hang on until their skipper returns to the court.
Keep an eye out for the storyline
The Clippers have the personnel to match up with Poole and Thompson on defense. They may place Kawhi Leonard or Paul Goerge on any of them to limit the Warriors’ offense. It is a major issue that Coach Steve Kerr must address.
If one of Poole or Thompson is fired, where will he obtain his production? He does, however, have alternatives. Six players scored in double digits in their most recent victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, with Donte DiVincenzo joining Poole and Thompson as 20-point scorers. When the Clippers go for his Plan A and B in Thompson and Poole, Kerr only needs to free up his Plan Cs and Ds.
In terms of skill, the Clippers have too much right now. However, they’re still figuring out who fits where during the game, and they still have two All-NBA players, Leonard and George, to count on.
The difference in this game is that Leonard and George can lead the team on both sides. They are a definite edge for LA against a squad without its own All-NBA player.