Recap: 5 thoughts from Clippers-Warriors Christmas showdown


After watching the Clippers defeat the Warriors 100-86 on Christmas, here are five thoughts on the highly-anticipated matchup.

1) Defense Wins Championship … and Holiday Games

When I spoke with DeAndre Jordan earlier this week, he spoke out on the Clippers inability to defend for a full-48 minutes. Against the Hawks and Spurs, we saw glimpses of that — for long stretches, this team was unable to sustain a consistent effort. Against the Warriors? We pretty much saw a defense that could possibly lead to a championship appearance.

Holding the third best offense in the NBA to 88 points per 100 possessions is a phenomenal feat. Holding the third best offense in the NBA to 5-of-22 shooting (23% in the fourth quarter) is a more phenomenal feat — this included holding Curry to 0-5 shooting, Green to 0-3 shooting and Thompson to 0-2 shooting.

Due to personnel, asking the Clippers to defend at this level for an entire 48 minutes would be a bit unfair, but if they can string together runs of elite defense while the core defensive players (Jordan, Barnes, Paul) are on the floor, we could see that run Doc Rivers says the Clippers are oh-so close to pulling off.

2) The Jamal Crawford Conundrum

On some nights, Crawford is a black-hole waiting to happen, stalling the leagues best offense as he dances and struts on the perimeter in hopes of landing style points from the crowd. On some nights, he’s a one-man wrecking crew, carrying the Clippers and the dead weight that lies on the bench. Tonight was the latter Crawford, but instead of carrying the bench, he played a large part in carry the Clippers entire offense, ending his night with an impressive 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting, with majority coming in the first during the Clippers offensive struggles and in the fourth as they broke away with the lead.

And here-in lies the problem for Los Angeles going forward.

As the reigning Sixth Man of the Year amidst one of his best season as a professional, Crawford’s league-wide trade value won’t get any higher and the Clippers are right to include his name in trade talks. And as an already-offensively talented team, the front office could see Crawford as expendable in order to add depth or help elsewhere. But there are so many moments where Crawford is the right guy for the job, regardless of the hole at small forward or the lack of consistent help on the bench. His antics may be annoying at times, but the times he’s helped this club likely outnumber the times he’s hurt them.

Luckily, I’m not the one that has to make the decision going forward. Good luck to Doc Rivers and co. figuring out this oen.

3) No Bogut, No Problem?

Without a true replacement at hand, there’s only so much the Warriors can do without their most important player in Andrew Bogut on the floor. Yes, you read that correctly … their most important player. Like last years seven-game series, the Clippers were able to take advantage of the Warriors’ inability to defend at a high level for most of the game. Give credit to what Draymond Green did against Blake Griffin — that was extraordinary — but without Bogut, you’re removing the biggest impact player not named Steph Curry the Warriors have.

For statistical proof that’d speak on the loss of Bogut, combined, Griffin, Jordan, Crawford, Barnes and Paul had  45 rebounds. While Barnes and Paul are solid rebounders for their respective positions, that’s likely not happening with Bogut in the fold.

Overall, it’s a trickle-down effect for how the Warriors

4) The Battle for “Point God” is still a close one

If you’re so quick to anoint Stephen Curry the best point guard in the NBA, it looks like Chris Paul has something to say about that. It’s a make or miss league, so Curry failing to land some shots is a product of luck, but Paul and company did an excellent job containing him on the offensive end, holding Curry to 14 points.

Meanwhile, Paul played a large hand in the Clippers getting their best victory of the season, scoring 22 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, and dishing 4 assists. This was essentially the Paul teammates and coaches have begged to see: an aggressive Paul who’s looking to score a bit more than facilitate. In the second half of tonight’s game, Paul led the Clippers in shots attempted with 11 and tied with Jamal Crawford for a half-high in points with 12, 8 which came in the third quarter where the Clippers began to separate themselves from Golden State.

Also, this happened (spoiler alert: Paul put Curry in the blender).

Though Curry is creeping for the number one spot, the original Point God has lived to fight another battle.

5) Narrowing the Gap

By defeating the Warriors, the Clippers have tied the season series 1-1 and are now four games back from first place in the Pacific division. With Andrew Bogut out indefinitely and the Warriors nearing a somewhat tough stretch (TOR, OKC, CLE, @ OKC, @ HOU, vs HOU, vs SAC, vs CHI between January 2nd and January 29th), the Clippers could gain ground on the division title, a title that could be the difference between an opening-round loss or Western Conference finals appearance.