Without Andrew Bogut patrolling the Warriors basket, the surprisingly stellar Warriors defense is in need of some emergency backup.
The Warriors begin their series against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday afternoon without their big Australian center manning the rim, but instead will trot out slow-footed veteran Jermaine O’Neal to try to do the same.
The Clippers are equipped with two descriptive frontcourt players: DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. But stopping Griffin is far more crucial to the Warriors gameplan than Jordan. Griffin is coming off a career-best regular season in which he averaged 24.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Against the Warriors, Griffin improved his scoring average to 25.0 points and his rebounding total to just more than 10 per contest.
Not surprisingly, when the Warriors defeated the Clippers, they held Griffin in check. They did not stop him, but forced him to take contested two-pointers and kept him off the backboards. When the Warriors defeated the Clippers 111-92, Griffin scored more than 25 points but gathered in a mere three rebounds.
So without Bogut, here are the keys to stopping Griffin.
Watch in this clip as Griffin gets great position on Lee as point guard Chris Paul brings the ball up the court. Griffin looks to have good position on the right block, but Lee plays surprisingly good post defense. He forces Griffin to dribble into the congested lane to his left. Warriors backup guard Steve Blake does a good job helping down and trying to get a steal, but in this particularly play over-helps a tiny bit. Griffin should have kicked the ball out to Paul for an open three instead of shooting a contested left-handed hook shot.
Without Bogut in the lineup, Lee will see far more time guarding Griffin. That matchup heavily favors the Oklahoma product who can easily overpower the Warriors’ high-priced power forward. When Griffin posts up on Lee, look for the Warriors guards to help out and try to force Griffin to pass the basketball out for a three-point shot.
Watch in this play above as Andrew Bogut does not allow Griffin to post up on the right block, rather he is about two steps further away from the paint than he was in the play above. Griffin then faces up against Bogut and attacks him one-on-one. Bogut does a good job as Griffin goes baseline moving his feat and forces the Clippers forward into a contested two-pointer. Without Bogut, O’Neal is likely to defend Griffin as much as possible.
The former Pacer star has 90 games of playoff experience and his 14 appearances are more than the two franchise-combined appearances in the past 35 years. O’Neal will likely spend a lot of time on an island battling Griffin on the left and right blocks and is likely to see far less help than Lee. If O’Neal moves his feet like Bogut then the Warriors should be fine, but O’Neal is slow-footed, and thanks to Griffin’s improved perimeter shooting, the Warriors will have to respect Griffin’s long two-point jumpers as a result of pick-and-rolls.