Wiseman pulls a rookie move, but clear to play for Warriors against Clippers

Rested up and with a clear mission in front of them, Golden State will find no easy path

Some days you’re the bug, some days you’re the windshield.

The Golden State Warriors will start the second half of their season going up against a windshield-like lineup of some of the NBA’s best teams. Up first: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Adding to the degree of difficulty, it looks like center James Wiseman might not be available because he reportedly forgot to take a mandatory Covid test over the break.

Thankfully, this seems to be relatively low on the scale of rookie moves, assuming Wiseman can clear another round of testing prior to tonight's game:

Pfft, rookie!

After finally stringing together a three-game winning streak, the Warriors turned around and dropped three straight, staggering into the All-Star break as the 9th seed in an extremely crowded Western Conference playoff race. Still just two and a half games back from the targeted 6th seed, the Warriors are hoping that a more experienced supporting cast, and an easier schedule will translate into success.

But first, they’ve got to get through the Clippers, one of the best teams in the NBA.


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (19-18) at Los Angeles Clippers (24-14)

WHEN: Thursday, March 11, 2021 // 7:00 pm PDT

WATCH: TNT

Blog Buddy: 213 Hoops


“There are things on the line this season.”

That was a quote aired just yesterday by Warriors General Manager, Bob Myers during a radio appearance. Myers was talking about the Warriors’ need to navigate what the he called, “… the balancing act as far as what makes sense now, but doesn't hamper us in the future. What can we do that maybe can be beneficial this year and into next year.”

Golden State is a little strapped for fungible assets, and that’s the problem that Myers is pointing to. Sure, there are players available, but the Warriors franchise finds themselves holding the tail end of a process that brought in enough talent to win three championships in four years. So while the rumor mills keep churning, it’s hard to see a path for the Warriors to swing a trade for Victor Oladipo, for example. If the Warriors are going to throw meaningful assets into a trade, it will (reportedly) have to be a significant enough player to move the needle. On balance, it’s hard to imagine an Oladipo trade that does that.

Barring a major move (which, to be fair: the Warriors have indicated they are open to), Golden State’s front office is likely to turn their eye towards the margins. Those margins though, mostly lack the intrigue required to pry a draft asset from the Warriors’ hands.

Shams Charania of The Athletic’s sources mentioned that Golden State may be interested in Sacramento’s Nemanja Bjelica, but again, it’s hard for me to imagine the Warriors giving up much for a chance to sign a guy averaging 8 points a game and shooting 31% from deep. Though he’s shot close to 39% on threes over the course of his career, the struggles of purported catch-and-shoot specialist, Brad Wanamaker make it seem unlikely that Golden State will take a mid-season flier on Bjelica, cost considerations aside.

Internally, the Warriors are far from bereft of options. Yesterday, Kerr gave a hint of things to come, promising unspecified “rotational changes.’

Expect to see a lot more Jordan Poole in the back half of the season. After getting prematurely called back from the G League, he poured in a career-high 26 points in the Warriors final pre-All-Star game - a 98-120 shellacking at the hands of the Phoenix Suns.

It will be interesting to see what happens with a Warriors bench that has been at the epicenter of most of Golden State’s meltdowns this season. The starting 5-man unit is still among the best in the league, so I fully expect Kerr to tinker heavily with the rest of his rotations. Whether it ends with a newly tuned machine, or a redneck front lawn sprawl of partially completed projects is anyone’s guess.

The stakes to get this right are extremely high.

Can the Clippers be good when it matters?

Much like the game of golf, there’s an inverse relationship between how good you are as a basketball team, and how much wriggle room you have. As a (really) bad golfer, I can blow an extra three or four strokes on any given hole, and still manage to play a good (for me) round. A good golfer though, doesn’t have three strokes to spare for an entire game.

So too does it go for an NBA franchise like the Los Angeles Clippers and their “championship or bust” goals. Since assembling the nascent super team of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers are 0-1 in the playoffs. An ugly second round collapse against the Denver Nuggets last year indelibly seared the memory of an ineffective Goerge and Leonard into the internet.

The two stars combined for just 24 points on 38 shots in that critical game 7, but the bigger story was that it was the third consecutive game in which the Clippers held a large first half lead, but eventually got beat by the Nuggets.

A historic collapse in your first postseason together doesn’t bode well, especially from underneath the shadows of a Clippers’ franchise that has never even made it to a Western Conference Finals in their team’s history.

Once again, the Clippers look fantastic during the regular season. Holding the fourth seed and boasting a top-five rating in both offense and defense, this is a squad that should absolutely destroy a flawed Warriors team tonight.

Looking at the team’s statistics, it’s hard to find a weak spot. They do everything pretty well. Talk as much as you’d like about making it to the Finals, it won’t matter one whit when their regular season machine rolls over the plucky Golden State team fighting for a fringe playoff spot.

If you are looking for silver linings, then it’s that this game is just about the perfect tune-up for Stephen Curry and the Warriors as they begin a serious push to close the season. Consider this game a litmus test against one of the best defenses in the league, fresh off a break, and with a great array of personnel well-suited to guarding Curry.

Predictions

Just like the Clippers, the Warriors are well rested, and coming in with time to plan against this specific opponent. Maybe it’s the chemicals, but I feel irrationally good about this one: Warriors come up big in the clutch and shock the Clippers, 109-108.

These are pretty much exactly the same Clippers that got eviscerated by Jamal Murray in the playoffs last year, so why not Curry?