Commentary

This one's getting a little heated

Maybe not quite a rivalry yet, Clippers-Warriors heading in that direction

Updated: November 1, 2013, 7:37 PM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Before the Los Angeles Clippers opened the season on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers were continually asked about their rivalry with the Lakers.

Each question was greeted with a similar roll of the eyes, followed by a similar explanation that there was no rivalry with the Lakers. As much as the Clippers want to be the best team in Los Angeles, they understand it will be decades before they can ever be on par with the Lakers.

You can't erase and rewrite 40 years of history with a couple of good seasons.

The Golden State Warriors? Well, that's another story.

[+] EnlargeClippers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsA first-half altercation between DeAndre Jordan, No. 6, and Andrew Bogut, far left, symbolized the developing rivalry between the Western Conference upstart Clippers and Warriors.

Rivalries are usually born in the playoffs, but the seeds of the competition between the Clippers and Warriors were planted last season, and grew into an undeniable feud before the Clippers defeated the Warriors 126-115 on Thursday.

Hours earlier, the Clippers decided to hold a separate pregame chapel from the Warriors, even though it is NBA custom for the home team to make one room available for players from both teams. Instead, the Warriors were given an earlier time than the Clippers.

The move took some Warriors players by surprise and set the tone for the game -- and perhaps the season series -- before it ever began.

DeAndre Jordan and Andrew Bogut got into a shoving match and had to be separated after receiving double technical fouls. Chris Paul stared down Klay Thompson on multiple occasions after plays. And Blake Griffin even got into it with Warriors coach Mark Jackson after bumping him on the sidelines one time too many.

"He was taking it out and he bumped me twice," Jackson said. "I wasn't going to let it happen a third time."

Griffin laughed about the incident, saying, "Before the game coach said we have to find a body and box out, and I just mistook him. It was my fault.

"It was nothing, really. He thought it was more than I thought it was."

While Griffin and many of his teammates have downplayed rivalries and feuds in the past, it was hard to hide the dislike for the Warriors after the game.

"Not every game you're going to come out and be friends with everybody, and be talking and having fun and going to back-and-forth," Griffin said. "Sometimes it's going to get a little gritty, and that's what it was tonight."

When coach Doc Rivers watched game tape of last season's four meetings between the Clippers and Warriors, he could clearly tell there was something different about this matchup. There was a different intensity in the Clippers after they saw the Warriors celebrating every made shot and every Clippers mistake. He re-watched as Jackson stood on the court and glared at the Clippers' bench as the Clippers finished one lob after another in their lone victory over Golden State.

"There was something going on, clearly, in that game, and you could see it," Rivers said. "I asked the guys about it today and they all started laughing, so that was the answer. Every time we scored, they were doing the cheers on our bench. The spirit was different in that game. That's what we have to get to every night, but there was something going on in that game."

Rivers got a firsthand taste of the rivalry Thursday night, as the Clippers came out with more fight, more energy and more passion than they had at any point in Tuesday's season opener against the Lakers.

"I think both teams want to go somewhere," Rivers said. "Golden State was so close last year to winning a title and we just want to jump into that category. Both teams had an urgency about it. I liked it. It was great to see. It was fun."

The Clippers and the Warriors have similar recent histories -- which is to say they don't have much. The Warriors have only made the postseason twice since the 1993-94 season, and haven't made it past the second round since 1976. Now both teams are vying to represent the West in the NBA Finals.

"We have similar stories," Jackson said. "Both franchises and both teams struggled for a long time and now both teams are relevant. We respect one another, but there's an edge to it."

Paul was still intense after the game as he sat down and looked at the final stat sheet for the first time. Paul finished with 42 points, 15 assists and six steals, becoming the first NBA players since 1985 with that kind of stat line and becoming the only active player outside of LeBron James to post at least 40 points and 15 assists. But all he could see was his turnovers.

"Man, I had six turnovers" Paul said. "That's ridiculous. That means there was six times I didn't give us an opportunity to score. I'm big on turnovers. I hate turnovers."

Paul admitted there wasn't much love lost between the teams, stemming largely from the way the Warriors celebrated their three victories over the Clippers last season.

"We played there last year and they were dancing and all that stuff," Paul said. "Both teams don't care for each other much. It is what it is."

As intense as the rivalry has become, setting up a marquee matchup on Christmas Day, Rivers was still hesitant to call it a rivalry until the two teams meet in the playoffs.

"I don't know if either one of us have the history of being that good yet to have a dislike," Rivers said. "We haven't played in the playoffs. When you play in the playoffs, then that following year it will be a dislike. Right now, we're just uncomfortable with each other. It's not a dislike yet, but let's all hope that it gets there.

"Dislike is not all bad."

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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