- J.A. Adande, ESPN Senior Writer
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Until Wednesday, Clippers vs. Warriors was more a battle of wills than words. Despite attempts on both sides to downplay the mutual contempt, to cycle through the synonyms in an attempt to use any phrase but “rivalry,” the action always said otherwise. Two games this season have resulted in seven technical fouls and two flagrant fouls. But all it took was one adjective from Blake Griffin to take things to a new level. It was a word that insults the Warriors’ manhood: “cowardly.”
As in, “That’s cowardly basketball.”
That was Griffin’s description of what transpired on the Christmas nightcap, when the two teams tangled in the Golden State Warriors' 105-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers that was still being fought after the final buzzer. When Chris Paul tried to grab the ball from Andrew Bogut, Bogut refused to surrender it and suddenly there were players and coaches from both teams -- most notably recently signed Clipper Stephen Jackson -- swarming to the area. Anytime Stephen Jackson is on the scene the tension just feels higher, no matter if a punch is thrown or not.
Griffin was already in the locker room when that transpired, having received technical fouls after tussling with Draymond Green after a flagrant-2 foul was called for a Green elbow at the end of the third quarter, and for locking into a jersey-grabbing standoff with Bogut on a play that Bogut was called for a flagrant-1 just more than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Griffin felt Bogut tried to lure the officials into calling a second technical foul on Griffin -- and the automatic ejection that comes with it.
Said Bogut: “I was trying to box him out. He's a tough offensive rebounder. Just a little physicality. I think it should have been a foul for each of us and just move on.”
The Warriors like to toy with the media, refusing to buy into the premise that there’s a rivalry or any other added animosity to this series.
Mark Jackson called the meetings “Tough, hard-fought games. I still think it’s not a rivalry.”
To him, Knicks vs. Bulls or Knicks vs. Pacers in his playing days were rivalries. It means meeting in May with survival at stake, not two teams who haven’t faced each other in the playoffs.
Stephen Curry used the words “competitive” and “energetic.” Those no longer suffice. These meetings aren’t the same as the rest of the schedule. One Warrior even admitted he told a family to expect a minimum of three skirmishes in this game, because that’s how these two teams are against each other. (He hit the number, if you include the postgame scuffle).
Now that Griffin called them cowardly they have no choice but to treat him and the Clippers differently, lest they prove Griffin correct.