Fresh off loss at Golden State, Clip­pers re­turn for play­offs

Sun.Star Pampanga - - TECH! -

OAK­LAND, Calif. (AP) — This is such a dif­fer­ent time for the Clip­pers and War­riors from their days as fierce ri­vals who swung el­bows, tus­sled and trashtalked at ev­ery chance.

Both fran­chises were find­ing them­selves then, from a testy Christ­mas matchup in 2013 in Oak­land to a chippy se­v­engame first-round se­ries just four months later that was won by Los An­ge­les.

Now, they each are more es­tab­lished — the War­riors a dy­nasty every­one else in the NBA is des­per­ate to de­throne.

Doc Rivers has been a con­stant for the Clip­pers. Stephen Curry, Dray­mond Green and Klay Thompson for Golden State.

“To­tally dif­fer­ent. They’re the young up­starts now, we’re the veteran team,” War­riors coach Steve Kerr said Fri­day.

The teams are meet­ing in the first round again. Game 1 in the best-of-seven se­ries is Satur­day night at Or­a­cle Arena, where the top-seeded War­riors have home court for the en­tire post­sea­son — some­thing they didn’t have as the West­ern Con­fer­ence’s No. 2 seed a year ago on the way to a sec­ond straight ti­tle.

Dur­ing that 2014 play­off se­ries, record­ings of then-Clip­pers owner Don­ald Ster­ling sur­faced in which he made racist com­ments, lead­ing to him be­ing banned by NBA Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver and forced by the league to sell the team.

“That was the Ster­ling game. I will never for­get that,” Rivers said last week­end at Or­a­cle, re­call­ing a 118-97 Game 4 loss. “Un­for­tu­nately, I rightly pre­dicted we’d lose by 50, I think we lost by 40 that game, I don’t know how much. The dis­trac­tions were just over­whelm­ing that night. I’ll never for­get that whole 48 hours.”

This is def­i­nitely a new se­ries, and the War­riors like how they have come to­gether from a topsy-turvy sea­son that fea­tured em­bar­rass­ing losses at home, a rar­ity in re­cent years.

“I know the his­tor­i­cal con­no­ta­tion, we talk about it and we want to chase it and un­der­stand how un­prece­dented it is what we’re try­ing to do,” Curry said.

Here are some things to watch for in the best-of­seven, first-round se­ries:

BEV­ER­LEY’S IN­FLU­ENCE: Pa­trick Bev­er­ley missed four games down the stretch and Los An­ge­les lost all of those. The de­fen­sive spe­cial­ist re­turned after miss­ing three straight and played 21 min­utes in a 143137 over­time vic­tory against the Jazz in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale Wed­nes­day night.

The Clip­pers count heav­ily on their tal­ented, versatile bench, too.

Curry knows he can’t let Bev­er­ley get un­der his skin.

“Just play bas­ket­ball, that’s what we’re out on the court to do,” Curry said. “An­tics and all that kind of stuff is likely to hap­pen, but noth­ing dis­tracts me from play­ing bas­ket­ball.”

HEALTHY STEPH: Curry wasn’t even healthy when the 2018 play­offs be­gan.

The two-time MVP re­turned from a left knee in­jury for Game 2 of the West­ern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals, miss­ing the en­tire first round as the War­riors elim­i­nated the Spurs in five games.

While he suf­fered a mild right foot sprain Tues­day at New Or­leans, Curry was a full go in prac­tice Fri­day with no is­sues. Kerr was com­mit­ted to not sac­ri­fic­ing the health of his team down the stretch just to se­cure the No. 1 seed. Now, the War­riors should be well-rested for the play­off opener.

COUSINS’ CHANCE: De­Mar­cus Cousins makes his play­off de­but after a nine-year wait, and after re­turn­ing from a dev­as­tat­ing in­jury — he missed nearly a year re­cov­er­ing from surgery for a torn left Achilles ten­don suf­fered last sea­son with New Or­leans.

Ev­ery­body is ea­ger to see Cousins on the big stage at last. That’s why he came to the War­riors as a free agent.

“I have worked my butt off for this op­por­tu­nity for a long time,” Cousins said. “It’s un­for­tu­nate what hap­pened in New Or­leans with the in­jury and ev­ery­thing. I’m ex­cited for this mo­ment. I plan on tak­ing full ad­van­tage of it.”

Cousins made his sea­son de­but at the Clip­pers on Jan. 18 and he has be­come a significant con­trib­u­tor on both ends.

“I just think he fits them bet­ter to­day than the first night that we played them,” Rivers said.

DUBS ON D: The War­riors have made strides on de­fense in re­cent weeks, with the ad­di­tion of 7-foot An­drew Bogut off the bench a big help even in lim­ited min­utes.

“We’ve been in th­ese types of se­ries be­fore, where it’s about the games­man­ship, un­der­stand­ing play­ers’ ten­den­cies,” Shaun Liv­ingston said.

OR­A­CLE SHINES AGAIN: The War­riors said a cer­e­mo­nial farewell to Or­a­cle in their fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son home game April 7. Now, ev­ery­body hopes there are many more post­sea­son games on Golden State’s home floor be­fore the fran­chise moves across the bay to San Francisco and the new Chase Cen­ter later this year.

“Or­a­cle is spe­cial,” Curry said. “Not to take it for granted what we’ve been able to do in the past and what we’re do­ing now. Who­ever’s in the arena is en­joy­ing the ex­cite­ment of the game. Those mini runs, we feed off their en­ergy.”

Los An­ge­les re­al­izes the chal­lenges of win­ning in such an im­pos­ing venue.

“Prob­a­bly my fa­vorite place to play so far my rookie year, just be­cause of the at­mos­phere,” Clip­pers rookie Landry Shamet said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.