The general consensus is that if any team in the West knocks off Golden State or San Antonio in the playoffs, it will be Oklahoma City, which can play small and fast and has two of the top five players in the world.
Brandon Tierney, however, believes the Los Angeles Clippers could get by any of the top seeds in the West and, in fact, gives them a puncher’s chance of winning an NBA title.
Ric Bucher does not.
“I don’t just because I question the depth and the intelligence, the basketball IQ, of that team,” the Bleacher Report NBA senior writer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The pieces, you can look at, and say they’re all there. Certainly the way Blake Griffin has come back and (played) with a vengeance to make up for the hand he broke punching someone in the organization – I still like saying that. He punched someone in the organization and missed time because he punched someone in the organization. I’ve never equated that with championship-caliber basketball.”
Griffin had 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block in the Clippers’ 115-95 win against Portland on Sunday, while Chris Paul finished with 28 points and 11 assists – both game-highs.
Aside from those two, though, Bucher sees problems.
“I just look at some of the guys that they rely on, including our Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford,” Bucher said. “I love him. He’s one of the great guys in the league. But you can’t have guys that are going to shoot you in and shoot you out of games. You have to have tighter control over your game. They still make too many mistakes.”
Crawford, 36, shot just 40.4 percent from the floor this season, but he’s also just a 41.0 percent shooter for his career. To his credit, he shot 90.4 percent from the foul line, which is a stark contrast to DeAndre Jordan, who shot an abysmal 43 percent.
Jordan had 18 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in Game 1 against Portland, but he also shot just 8-of-18 (44.4 percent) from the foul line.
“DeAndre Jordan, same thing,” Bucher said. “When you have a big man that is that valuable and yet you can’t play him at the end of games because he shoots 40 percent from the free throw line – if you’re talking about winning a championship, that is an Achilles heel that I don’t know that you get over.”
As for the Warriors, Bucher believes that Steph Curry will play in Game 3 in Houston on Thursday.
“I think he goes,” Bucher said. “I think he’s cleared all the protocol and he wants to play. At some point, it’s like when they went 24-0 and they go to Milwaukee and they’re gassed. Normally they would have sat guys but they’re like, ‘We can’t take the bat out of these guys’ hands. They want to continue the streak. We’ve got to play them even though we don’t want to play them.’ In the big picture, sometimes you have to make those exceptions. You make that exception for the MVP.”