Clippers vs Warriors: comparing small ball lineups

Paul George, LA Clippers. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Paul George, LA Clippers. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

More than likely, the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will be spending the next few days envisioning their championship moment.

In Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night, the Warriors built what felt like an insurmountable lead against the Boston Celtics, only to be dragged into a dog fight during the second half. Despite Boston nailing 11 3-pointers to take the lead, in the fourth, it was the Warriors who bit down on their mouthpiece and came out swinging, winning the game by 10-points.

With the victory, Golden State is now only one win away from nabbing the seventh title in the history of their franchise, and fourth in seven seasons, the Warriors can nearly taste the overflowing champagne that will be spilled in the locker room. They can also hear the triumphant horns blaring in the background as they make their way through San Francisco’s richly populated streets for yet another championship parade.

Although the series isn’t officially over, it appears as though it will be. Still, regardless of their impending championship celebration and despite the priceless smiles that will be plastered across their faces, their moment of jubilation will be transient.

Since becoming a champion-laced ball club in 2015, the Warriors have been able to trout out inconceivable lineups that produce mind-numbing matchups for the opposition. With Curry slotted as their de-facto point guard, confusion sets in when their newly checked in “center” Draymond Green, begins running the point. Thompson, who’s thrown onto the wing, begins his perpetual motion along with Curry’s, bouncing off endless screens that are set from countless angles.

As for their final two players who are often on the court during their small ball lineups, over the years, it’s changed. From Kevin Durant to Harrison Barnes, Golden State has always pilfered one of the league’s best wing players on both sides of the ball. In their current iteration, Andrew Wiggins, a tenacious on-the-ball defender with a knack for scoring at will, as well as Jordon Poole, a seemingly new member of the splash brothers, push the pace and offer a variety of challenges to the competition.

As presently constructed, it’s nearly impossible to contain Golden State’s small ball lineup, but how would the LA Clippers fare?

Golden State’s small ball lineups are legendary but the LA Clippers are better at their own game

Unlike many, LA has the offensive prowesses and defensive chops to challenge the Warriors with their own small ball lineup.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard would remain on the floor, both standing at roughly 6’9” and rangy, they have the offensive punch to keep LA float afloat when things break down. Secretly, LA quietly swung the fences during the midway point of the season last year, acquiring both Norman Powell and Robert Covington.

Although the sample sizes were minuscule, both Powell and Covington had enormous impacts. In the case of Powell, before being forced to miss all but five games for his new team due to a foot injury, the former Toronto Raptor lit up the scoreboards in his secondary role off the bench, averaging 21.4 points, while shooting better than 50% from the field and 54.2% from 3-point land.

Covington, while not as impressive in terms of his ability to score the ball, dropping 10.4 points a night in 23 games at his new locale, he was incredibly efficient. Covington nailed 50% of his overall buckets while connecting on 45% from distance. LA’s undersized big man who can match Green’s physicality and versatility would be Nicolas Batum.

Additionally, LA’s small ball lineup could come in different forms. Terance Mann and Marcus Morris Sr. are adaptable defenders with wide-ranging offensive games. Luke Kennard, a defensively inept forward with 3-point range that can rival the best in the league today, having led the league in 3-point percentage this past season, is another player to keep an eye on in the rotational mix.

For as great as the Warriors have been, their current small ball lineup isn’t malleable. Ty Lue, on the other hand, LA’s current head coach, has a bevy of options. Also, for what it’s worth, Leonard won’t be overwhelmed by the moment. In 32 career games against Curry and his Warriors, Leonard escaped with the victory on 20 occasions, including a 2019 NBA Finals win as a member of the Toronto Raptors.

For now, the hypothetical showdowns are extraneous. LA doesn’t deserve the spotlight, Golden State, however, with only one win away from nabbing it all, placed themselves in their enviable position. They earned it. And while all signs point to them winning yet another Larry O’Brien Trophy, LA will remain patient in the shadows as the confetti is on the verge of falling for what they hope is the final time.

Kawhi Leonard links up with longtime coach. dark. Next