The Clippers put together a scrappy, inspiring season with a good combination of tough veterans and talented, chip-on-the-shoulder youngsters. Unfortunately, three losses in their final four games left them stuck in the No. 8 slot with a meeting against the Warriors, West champs for four straight years.

All that scrap and inspiration does not figure to mean much against a juggernaut like Golden State, which is looking for one last championship before free agency kicks in, possibly costing the team star forward Kevin Durant. That’s a subplot here — if Durant leaves the Warriors, the Clippers are one of the biggest contenders to sign him. This series could be the prelude to a real rivalry.

NBA PLAYOFFS 2019: Full schedule | West predictions

Warriors vs. Clippers: Schedule, breakdown, predictionDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 13Game 1 at Golden State8 p.m. ET (ABC)April 15Game 2 at Golden State10:30 p.m. ET (TNT/fuboTV)April 18Game 3 at Los Angeles10:30 p.m. ET (TNT/fuboTV)April 21Game 4 at Los Angeles3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)*April 24Game 5 at Golden StateTBD*April 26Game 6 at Los AngelesTBD*April 28Game 7 at Golden StateTBD

(*if necessary)

The key player

Ho-hum. All Stephen Curry did this year for the Warriors was score 27.3 points per game, with 5.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists, while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from the 3-point line.

The Clippers mostly used Avery Bradley against Curry this season, but Bradley is gone, leaving Doc Rivers with some choices. He can use long-armed point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander against Curry or gritty defensive guard Patrick Beverley on him. Neither played Curry much during the regular season, but both can be expected to be physical with him in this series.

The big number

11. The Warriors will enter the postseason with the No. 11 ranked defense in the NBA, allowing 108.5 points per 100 possessions. That might seem to give the Clippers some hope, given that LA was ranked ninth in offensive efficiency this season (111.3) and averaged 115.1 points per game during the season.

Problem is, the Warriors coasted most of the first chunk of the season defensively, as they did last year when they also were 11th in defensive efficiency. But when the playoffs came around, Golden State was the No. 1 team in defensive efficiency, and ranked fifth in the category over its final 16 games (they were 12-4 in that stretch).

Most teams can’t really flick a switch in the playoffs, but the Warriors are an exception.

Warriors vs. Clippers prediction

It’s remarkable that the Clippers managed 48 wins this season, and they might have had a chance at an upset if they had not been stuck with the eighth seed. LA is a team on the rise, but they’re not ready for a Warriors upset just yet.

Warriors over Clippers, 4-1