The Golden State Warriors staved off elimination on Thursday night with a grind ‘em out, thrilling victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, 100-99.
Neither team shot the ball well with both teams shooting under 40 percent from the field in a game muddled up with constant fouling. The teams combined for 52 fouls and 70 free throws. The Warriors won the game because they didn’t turn the ball over, won the 50-50 balls and shut down the Clippers best players, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
They will need to do these same things in Los Angeles tonight if they want to win a Game 7, the franchise’s first since 1977. Here are some things the Warriors must do if they want to advance in the NBA Playoffs:
1. Be Physical With Chris Paul
Chris Paul is the key to the Clippers success by penetrating the lane finding Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for dunks while playing terrific defense against Stephen Curry. Paul has been limited by injuries throughout the series and they seem to be growing by the minute. Paul injured his left hand in Game 6 to add to his hamstring injury, both injuries have affected him greatly. Paul only shot 3 of 10 from the floor for nine points and constantly battled foul trouble throughout Game 6.
The Warriors must continue to be physical on both ends on the floor by setting hard screens on offense and continue to bother him with Klay Thompson’s length on defense. If the Warriors can prevent penetration and make Paul battle through screens, it will make their defense better and will get Stephen Curry open shots, giving them a great opportunity to win Game 7.
2. Contain Blake Griffin on offense
This is easier said than done but Draymond Green played outstanding defense against Griffin in Game 6. He limited him to 8 of 24 from the field, constantly bothering him and pestering on every single shot. Griffin was clearly frustrated and may have affected his defense.
Green took advantage, scoring 14 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, dishing out four assists and five steals. Even since the Warriors went to a smaller lineup, starting Green, Griffin has struggled to dominate the game. In the three games prior to the change in the starting lineup, Griffin averaged over 27 points per game. Since then, he has averaged less than 19 points per game with Green’s defense being the main reason. Green is very physical with Griffin and has the quickness to stay with him and contest his shot. If Green continues to play excellent defense, the Warriors should be great shape in Game 7.
3. Don’t Turn The Ball Over
This may be the most important key to victory on the road in Game 7. The Warriors have lost in this series when they turn the ball over at a high rate, which fuels the Clippers transition game. In the Warriors’ losses, they have turned the ball on average 18 times and when they won, that number shrank to just 14 times.
When the Warriors turn the ball over, it fuels DeAndre Jordan. Jordan excels in the open floor, getting most of his dunks in transition. J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford also excel in the open floor by getting wide open threes before the defense can recover. In Game 5, the Warriors only turned the ball over 13 times but Curry had eight of them in large part to Paul’s defense. On most of these turnovers, the Clippers converted with dunks or open threes. If the Warriors can limit their turnovers, especially Curry, the Clippers will be much easier to defend and give the road team a rare win in a Game 7.
If the Warriors accomplish all three of these keys, they will advance in the postseason to face either the Memphis Grizzlies or Oklahoma City Thunder. They are countless other keys like the Warriors must shoot the ball better, the Splash Brothers must shoot lights out or win the rebounding battle.
But the three keys above, if accomplished, should lead to a Warriors victory and allow Mark Jackson to live another day.