Clippers present 'heck of a challenge' for Warriors

Clippers present 'heck of a challenge' for Warriors
April 16, 2014, 8:45 pm
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That the Warriors and the Clippers are kick off the first round of the Western Conference playoffs Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. (USATSI)

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It will be, as so many had hoped, Northern California versus Southern California in the rumble to decide which NBA team wears the crown in this state.

The Warriors against the Clippers, the team they most despise.

The Clippers against the Warriors, the team they like the least.

No artificial hype necessary.

[RELATED: Warriors to face Clippers in first round

But for the Warriors, it can't possibly be the same without Andrew Bogut, their notoriously rugged 7-foot center.

That the Warriors and the Clippers are meeting in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs – Game 1 is Saturday afternoon at Staples Center – is persuasive evidence that there are basketball gods.

GAME 1 Saturday April 19 Warriors at Clippers 12:30 p.m. ABC
GAME 2 Monday April 21 Warriors at Clippers 7:30 p.m. CSNBA
GAME 3 Thursday April 24 Clippers at Warriors 7:30 p.m. CSNBA
GAME 4 Sunday April 27 Clippers at Warriors 12:30 p.m. ABC
GAME 5(If Nec) Tuesday April 29 Warriors at Clippers TBD TBD
GAME 6(If Nec) Thursday May 1 Clippers at Warriors TBD TBD
GAME 7(If Nec) Saturday May 3 Warriors at Clippers TBD TBD

But Bogut, forced to the sideline a fractured rib, would say they are cruel, for this is precisely the kind of action for which the Aussie lives. He is most at home among big men banging and bumping and grunting in close quarters, with a palpable undercurrent of animosity.

The loss of Bogut – who likely will miss at least another two weeks – pushes the Warriors from relatively slight underdogs to utter longshots.

The containment of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the league's most athletic big-man tandem, now falls upon the likes of David Lee, still recovering from nerve irritation in his right hamstring.

And to Jermaine O'Neal, whose legs have pounded NBA hardwood for 18 seasons.

And to Marreese Speights, for whom defense is nothing less than a difficult chore.

And to Draymond Green, the pit bull of a forward who brings all the pluck he can muster against what almost always is a bigger and taller and more athletic foe.

"It presents a heck of a challenge,'' Lee conceded, referring to Jordan and Griffin. "They're one of the best frontcourts in the league.

"But like coach would say, the assignment is still the assignment. We've got to go out there and the guys that are able to play have to be ready to go. It doesn't change my approach, to continue to be aggressive and take it after these guys.''

The Warriors privately hope they can turn to Festus Ezeli at some point during this series, even though he missed the entire regular season. The 6-11 big man, after spending seven months rehabbing his surgically reconstructed right knee, conceivably could begin practicing any day. And playing would not be far behind.

For now, we only know we're getting two teams that split four games during the season. We know that spittle will fly. That Warriors coach Mark Jackson and Clippers coach Doc Rivers, both former NBA point guards, will attempt to upstage each other.

And that Warriors point guard Stephen Curry and Clippers point guard Chris Paul, like their coaches, represent a quiet rivalry within itself.

"It's going to be,'' Lee said, "a very entertaining series.''

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