NBA Playoffs 2014: Warriors collapse could welcome unwanted opponent for Clippers


Jan 12, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) drives the ball past Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Grizzlies 104-83. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This is why we play 82 games.

The number? It can be changed. 54. 60. 66. However many you think the league should be played at, but things don’t end until the final buzzer sounds. And that’s what keeps it interesting.

For the Los Angeles Clippers, they’ll likely enter the playoffs as the third seed in the Western Conference, but their opponent? There’s no guarantee at this point. A week ago, it looked like Clippers-Warriors would be the 3-6 series, one we all are salivating for. And when the regular season finishes out, that may still be the case, but there’s no certainty at this point due to the Warriors recent slide.

Dealing with injuries to both Andrew Bogut and David Lee, the Warriors have gone 5-5 in their last 10 contests. Losing to both the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets in the last week, this slump has allowed the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies an outside chance to inch closer to what can be looked at as a coveted sixth seed.

At this moment, the Warriors have a half-game lead over the Mavericks and a full-game lead over the Grizzlies, but with a struggling offense (how is this even possible with Stephen Curry on the team) and Andrew Bogut’s health up in the air for the final two games of the season (vs. MIN, at DEN), anything could happen.

If Memphis wins their remaining two games (at PHX, vs. DAL), they’ll secure the seventh seed. If Memphis loses at Phoenix, Dallas secures the seventh seed. For either team to make the jump up to the sixth seed, it’d take the Warriors’ losing out, something that can’t be written off despite Curry’s great play.

Apr 13, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after making a basket against the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

For the Clippers, getting an injured Warriors team is the best-case scenario, even considering they’ve had, arguably, the best point guard of the season. Sure, Klay Thompson will be a difficult matchup and Andre Iguodala could possibly stifle Chris Paul for the entire series as Mark Jackson likely keeps Curry hidden on Matt Barnes, but Memphis’ is still a nightmare first-round scenario for the Clippers and a combination of good Monta Ellis + Dirk Nowitzki + Rick Carlisle will be a tough out.

This season, the Clippers own a 1-2 record against the Grizzlies. Despite the growth Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have made this season and the confidence Doc Rivers has instilled in the two, each big still struggles with defensive lapses from time to time and the Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph combination is still a problem for them. Add in the Clippers having little big-man depth with Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, an injured Danny Granger and Ryan Hollins playing key minutes and it’s evident that Memphis has the greater frontcourt. Memphis also possesses the wing personnel to counter Chris Paul and company (Tony Allen/Mike Conley/Nick Calathes/Courtney Lee) and aren’t mentally afraid of the bunch. Like in the past, the Grizzlies could end the Clippers postseason run before it gets started.

With Dallas, it’s having to deal with a machine in Dirk Nowitzki. Blake Griffin played Griffin well in the third meeting between the two teams, as illustrated here, but Dirk plays well against the team. On the season, the Clippers won the first three meeting before falling in the fourth. The common theme was the Clippers having to come back from huge deficits to win the game.

  • Game 1 – Mavericks +11 at 4:52 in 3rd quarter. Clippers win by 7.
  • Game 2 – Mavericks +17 at 4:49 in 4th quarter. Clippers win by 2.
  • Game 3 – Mavericks +11 at 8:40 in 4th quarter. Clippers win by 6.

Even in the last game, the Clippers fought a huge deficit, but came up short at the end. How good you think the Clippers are doesn’t exactly matter here. Betting on the ability to come back from a deficit each game could come back to eventually bite a team in the behind.

There are a combined five games left between these three teams. Nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen. Phoenix could make the playoffs. Dallas could face the Spurs. Memphis could creep to the seventh seed. Golden State could slide to the eight seed. Too many possibilities that rattle the brain when thinking about it.

Luckily for us, it’ll all be settled in five, but if the Clippers spend the remainder of the year scoreboard watching, I wouldn’t blame them.