Many believe the balance of power in the Western Conference and the Pacific Division has shifted down south. The Los Angeles Clippers with their prized off-season acquisitions have supplanted the Golden State Warriors as the favorite to win the NBA title in 2020. The Clips have never been to a conference final let alone a championship series, so there is some ground to make up. And the Dubs aren’t going to relinquish their throne so easily. Despite their losses and injuries, the Warriors still trot out a potent lineup that includes the best shooter in the game in Steph Curry along with a tenacious defender. And the Clips open the season with Paul George on the shelf, giving the Dubs an early opportunity to show who’s the boss.
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Both teams underwent massive changes to their roster during the offseason so it’s impossible to determine anything so early in the year. One of the biggest differences for the Warriors will be their new arena, just across the bay in San Francisco from their former home. And that’s a huge change for a team that enjoyed such homecourt dominance over the last five years.
The new gazillion dollar arena brings a hefty price tag to the average basketball fan, effectively pricing out the Dubs’ ‘Strength in Numbers’ backers. And with fans sitting on their hands waiting for their next glass of $100 Chardonnay can they really get the team amped for a patented third quarter run that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from this club?
You could go with a number of guys in this section. Of course Kawhi Leonard is the obvious pick since he made the Clippers the favorite in the West. Leonard has been a beast his entire career and he was the reason why the Raptors won the title last season. Then there is Curry and Draymond Green on the other side. The two holdovers are tasked with keeping the house in order now that Kevin Durant is gone and Klay Thompson is recovering from injury.
But the key in this game and Golden State’s season is D’Angelo Russell. Acquired in the Durant sign-and-trade with Brooklyn, Russell is the bridge player and how the Dubs do depends on how quickly he gets integrated into the offense.
The Warriors lost a ton of scoring in KD and Thompson and outside of Curry they don’t have anyone to pick up the slack. That’s why Russell is so important. He can keep teams honest and open up the floor for Curry to do what he does best. Let’s face it, Green can score, but he isn’t a scorer, and the club lost a lot of options. Russell can get that back and will need to for the Warriors to enjoy some success.
Last Time Out
When the teams last met it was in the first round of last season’s playoffs and the Clippers threw a scare into the Warriors. It was surprising because it wasn’t supposed to happen. And the Clips have the grinders from that squad back in tow along with superstar Leonard. The Clips will be without Paul George for the first few weeks of the season, but they have a slew of players that are ready to fill in and plug a hole for the greater good of the team.
Montrezl Harrell is likely to get significant run time with George on the shelf and he should. Harrell had a monster playoff series averaging 18.3 points while shooting 71.9 percent from the floor. He also played some mean defense and that was against a team much stronger than the one he’s going to go against on Thursday.
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The Warriors don’t have a lot of depth down low and they will be further stretched with Willie Cauley-Stein on the shelf. We are expected to see Kevon Looney in this one, but how effective he’s going to be after missing time during camp with a hamstring issue remains to be seen. Marquese Chriss was a surprise in camp and made the roster because the Warriors lack size.
That’s an area the Clippers, and probably every other team, will look to exploit. With Leonard, Harrell and Ivica Zubac getting easy buckets down low and opening the perimeter, the Clippers should have an efficient offensive evening.
NBA Odds:Clippers 112, Warriors 105
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