On Saturday afternoon, the Golden State Warriors stole Game 1 from the Los Angeles Clippers and gained the home court advantage in this best of seven series, 109-105. This was not a flawless performance by the Warriors by any means but they grinded out the victory with balanced scoring and making enough plays to win the game. Here are some keys to victory if Golden State wants to be up 2-0 going back home to Oracle.
1. The Splash Brothers must shoot the ball better and value each and every possession.
As a duo, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson struggled shooting the basketball, shooting just 13 of 36 from the field and accounting for 36 points. On most nights, the Warriors lose these games when Curry and Thompson struggle but the Warriors managed to win Game 1. They won in large part because of their supporting cast with David Lee leading the way with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Lee can get you 20 and 10 on a nightly basis but it was Draymond Green, Jermaine O’Neal and Harrison Barnes, who really lifted this club. The trio accounted for 34 points, 18 rebounds and four made threes. It is not likely these players will put these numbers up again so it is imperative for Curry and Thompson to shoot the lights out in Game 2 and value possessions. The duo combined for 11 turnovers with many of these turnovers unforced or careless. There is no reason why this backcourt should turn it over that many times.
2. Don’t let Chris Paul beat you: Prevent penetration and make him a jump shooter.
Chris Paul is one of the best players in the NBA and is most effective when driving the lane and making plays for himself or others. Even though Paul was the leading scorer in Game 1, the Warriors, as a team, made it very difficult for Paul to make his teammates better for the simple reason they prevented penetration and made him a jump shooter. Paul took the second-most shots he had taken all season with 23 and as a result, his teammates suffered. The Clippers shot only 42% from the field with only JJ Redick having a good shooting performance. Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford went a combined 4 for 20 from the field because Paul wasn’t breaking down the defense and giving them open looks. Instead Thompson, Green and Iguodala shutdown penetration and made Paul a volume shooter. Paul’s play was drastically impacted by the absence of Blake Griffin, which may have affected his decision to penetrate and prompted him to take more jump shots. Thompson said it best in his postgame interview, talking about Paul, saying “If you cut off the head (Paul), they are about half as good.”
3. Make Blake Griffin play defense.
Griffin was a nonfactor in Game 1 because he was in foul trouble early and often. He accounted for only 16 points in 19 minutes of play, fouling out with the game tied at 105 late in the 4th quarter. Chances are he will not foul out in Game 2, which means the Warriors will have a tough time containing him on the offensive end. To combat his offensive skills, Lee and O’Neal must make Griffin work at the defensive end and tire him out so he is not as effective scoring the basketball. They can not allow him to rest on defense and they must block him out to prevent easy baskets. The duo combined for 34 points on 14 of 22 shooting from the field in Game 1 and if they can duplicate those numbers in Game 2, Griffin will have to exert energy on defense and therefore become less effective on the offensive end.
There will be other factors in the game including whether the Clippers can take advantage of the loss of Andrew Bogut and the bench play but the three keys above will decide who wins Game 2. If the Warriors can accomplish all three keys, they have a great chance of going up 2-0 and possibly closing out the series at Oracle Arena.
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