The Clippers finished nine games ahead of second-place Golden State last season to win the franchise’s first division championship. That margin would have been larger had the Warriors not beaten them three times.
The teams renewed their intense rivalry Thursday night as Chris Paul scored 42 points and had three of his 15 assists on consecutive alley-oop dunks by Blake Griffin during a 30-second span of the third quarter, helping lead Los Angeles to a 126-115 victory in the Clippers’ home opener.
"Those three plays started with defense, and that’s what got us going," Griffin said. "That’s a positive thing, and we have to learn from that. We have to know that we can extend a lead and put the game where we need it to be with our defense."
The Clippers, coming off a club-record 56-win season, began their 30th season in Los Angeles on Tuesday with a 116-103 loss to the Lakers, that night’s home team in the shared arena.
This is the first season in which the Lakers’ championship banners and retired numbers will be covered up during Clippers home games by banners depicting some of their players in action — an innovation by new head coach Doc Rivers.
Griffin had 23 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 3:53 remaining for the Clippers. Reserve Jamal Crawford added 17 points and DeAndre Jordan had 17 rebounds and nine points.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who set an NBA single-season record with 272 3-pointers last season made nine 3s against the Clippers and finished with 39 points and nine assists. David Lee scored 22 points before fouling out with 4:10 to play, and center Andrew Bogut had 17 points.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who had a career-high 38 points on 15-for-19 shooting in a 125-94 rout of the Lakers on Wednesday night, did not attempt a field goal against the Clippers until he was awarded a basket on a goaltending call against Jordan with 5:04 left in the half. Thompson finished with 10 points.
"We’re not running our offense through Klay. That’s not who we are," coach Mark Jackson said. "We pick and choose, find the hot hand, we run our offense and we execute. Last night he had it going and we made a steady diet of Klay. Tonight we were trying to find a rhythm and then Steph got it going."
Trailing by as many as 19, the Warriors sliced the deficit to 110-102 on a four-point play by Curry, who was fouled by Jared Dudley on his fourth 3-pointer of the fourth quarter with 6:05 remaining.
"It’s crazy. I mean, you give him one or two inches and he can still get his shot off," Griffin said. "I thought we did a decent job on him, but he was just in one of those zones where it seemed like he was hitting everything he put up."
The Warriors, however, never got closer as the Clippers responded with a 10-5 run capped by newcomer J.J. Redick’s 3-pointer with 3:12 left.
"When you’re on the road playing against a team like that, one that thrives off turnovers and easy baskets, you can’t give them a game like that," Curry said. "It’s disappointing for me to let my shooting performance be overshadowed by my 11 turnovers. But it’s not going to keep me down."
Lee committed his fifth foul with 6:38 left in the third quarter and went to the bench with the Warriors trailing 77-67. Paul and Griffin then worked the sellout crowd of 19,060 into a frenzy with their sudden reprise of "Lob City," helping the Clippers pull away to an 88-70 lead with 4:31 left in the quarter.
Los Angeles led 68-55 at halftime with four players reaching double digits, including Paul with 18 points. The Clippers took their biggest lead, 65-47, on a 21-footer by Redick that capped an 11-2 spurt with 1:43 left in the second quarter. He finished with 17 points.
"We had no business being in this game, but we fought, we battled and we hung in there. We just couldn’t get over the hump," Jackson said. "We just lost to a good basketball team. You can’t turn the ball over against them because they’ll make you pay the price."
After getting in early foul trouble, Bogut picked up his third with 2:50 left in the half when he hacked Jordan on the arm as the Clippers’ center backed into him while dribbling the ball in the paint. The two players got into a shoving match before they each received technical fouls. The Clippers were leading 58-45 at the time.
"It’s just basketball," Jordan said. "He fouled me and I thought he followed through a little bit, so I want to protect myself at all times. It’s didn’t escalate anymore, and that’s it."
The Clippers did not raise a banner signifying the first division championship in franchise history, which dates back to the 1970-71 season when they were the Buffalo Braves. Nor was it mentioned during the pregame introductions.
"I didn’t have a lot of say in that this summer," Griffin said with a smirk. "We did win the division, but whether there’s a banner up there or not, we have such bigger goals that that. Just getting to the playoffs is not enough. Our goal is to win four series in the playoffs."
NOTES: The Clippers are 15-15 in home openers since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles for the 1984-85 season. … The Clippers have beaten the Warriors at least once in each of the last 27 seasons, their longest such streak against any club. … Jordan recorded his 1,000th regular-season field goal in the NBA on an alley-oop dunk set up by Paul in the first quarter. Jordan’s league-best 64.3 shooting percentage last season was a franchise record, topping James Donaldson’s old mark in 1984-85, the Clippers’ first season in L.A. … The Clippers franchise is 5-11 on Halloween and 2-8 since the club moved to Los Angeles.