The exact moment the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors turned into a rivalry is unknown, but it’s quickly becoming one of the NBA’s greatest spectacles.
It may have started on Christmas Day, two years ago, when the two teams met and several shoving matches turned into technical fouls and ejections.
That same year, the two teams met in the playoffs in a series that went a full seven games, with the Clippers eventually knocking off the Warriors.
Last season, the Warriors won the season series 3-1, but there were plenty more dust-ups. Draymond Green made waves by taunting Blake Griffin all the way up the floor after a made basket:
Later in the year, Clippers forward Dahntay Jones bumped Green after the game, setting off a giant feud that had both teams shooting back at one another. Green said Jones needed airtime because he sat on the bench all day, Jones said Green wants attention, Doc Rivers mocked Green for taking the bump so personally, and Green finished things with a simple mock of Rivers, calling him by his real name, Glenn: “Cool story, Glenn.”
The NBA world was robbed when the two teams didn’t meet in the playoffs, which would have taken the rivalry to the next level, but that hasn’t seemed to slow them down.
During the preseason, Doc Rivers and several other Clippers told Grantland’s Zach Lowe that the Warriors had a bit of luck on their way to winning a championship – which is true! The Warriors never had any big injuries and didn’t have to face the Spurs, Clippers, or a healthy Thunder team.
The Warriors misconstrued the Clippers’ quotes as if they were saying, “The Warriors were lucky to win the championship.” Several players fired back, with Stephen Curry sarcastically saying:
“I apologize for us being healthy. I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry, and we’ll rectify that situation this year.”
The two teams met for a preseason game Tuesday night, and despite the Clippers winning by 35 points, they couldn’t make it through without some drama. Warriors guard Shaun Livingston went off after the game, saying, “They were out there talking. If they want to talk, we want to talk. We’re not going to just back down. They’re up 20 and talking, up 30 and still talking. It is what is. It’s the game. But just play the game. That’s all.”
On Blake Griffin, Livingston said:
“He’s going with all these antics; just play. He’s out here wrapping me up, putting elbows to my forehead. Ok. I understand. Don’t get me wrong. They want to beat us. … I’ve got 12 years in this thing, and you’re out here trying to throw elbows at me and wrap me up and do all that. That makes no sense to me. Just play and you don’t have to do all of that. You’re big enough and strong enough that you can just box me out without doing all of that.”
In an interview with Business Insider, Clippers guard J.J. Redick wasn’t too shy about the relationship with the two teams.
“From my experience, I don’t think the teams like each other,” Redick said. “We beat them in the playoffs two years ago, and they were the best team last year and they won the championship, so they have essentially what we want. So there’s certainly some dislike.”
Redick noted he’s not sure it’s a rivalry because he thinks rivalries form over long periods of time. He noted the back-and-forth quotes have also accentuated the rivalry after being asked if it was media-driven.
“I definitely think the media has played a part in accentuating the back-and-forth dialogue between the two teams. I know that they have some members of their beat writers that kind of enjoy going to their guys and saying, ‘Hey, did you hear what Doc said?’ ‘Hey, did you hear what Blake said?’ That definitely happens and things can get blown out of proportion. As was proven recently with Doc going on Zach Lowe’s podcast and something getting taken out of context, what Doc was inferring, and it made it seem like we were saying they were lucky to win, which is the furthest thing from the truth.”
And this is all just in preseason!
There are a number of reasons to enjoy this back-and-forth and let it blossom into an actual full-fledged rivalry. Both teams play an exciting style of basketball, they have two of the league’s five best point guards who are capable of taking over at any time, they’re both stacked with instigators, and they play in the same division, ensuring we get at least four games each season.
The two teams play each other early into the season, November 4, when feelings should still be fresh. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see both teams square off well past the regular season, too.