LOS ANGELES — The barbs were fired early, even if they were subtle.
When asked to explain the Warriors’ defense success, Clippers coach Doc Rivers quickly praised Andre Iguodala’s ability to defend positions 1 through 3. The benefit, Rivers added, was that Golden State could hide Stephen Curry defensively.
"I think that probably bothers Chris [Paul] more than anybody, when they compare him to all the guards. He says, ‘Well, I guard everybody.’ I think that does bother Chris a little bit," Rivers said.
The follow-up question was if Paul would matchup with Curry Wednesday night.
The Clippers-Warriors rivalry has been bubbling since last season. From the opening tip, each team’s disdain for the other was apparent. To little surprise, there were a couple technicals, a few dust-ups, and plenty of hard fouls.
Despite a close game through three quarters, Los Angeles used a Paul 3-pointer at the end of the third and a Blake Griffin tip-dunk midway through the fourth to gain momentum. With Curry struggling, the Warriors had no answer for L.A., who rolled to a 111-98 victory — their league-high ninth in a row.
Griffin led the way with 30 points and 15 rebounds, none more emphatic than his tip-slam that shook the crowd and the Internet. Paul couldn’t find his shot — he stayed after the game to get a post-game shooting session in — but still managed 16 points and 12 assists.
"It’s a building series," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "At the end of the day, we’re two teams that are going to have to see a lot of each other in the near future."
The near future may be as soon as the playoffs in six weeks, as the teams are currently paired up in the West’s three-six matchup.
Here are five takeaways from Clippers-Warriors:
In the second quarter, Griffin became just the third player in NBA history in to register 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds, 1,000 assists and 50 percent or better from the floor in his first four seasons. The other two players? Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley. Quite the company. At this point, it’s impossible to deny Griffin’s brilliance.
Playoff preview? Clippers grind out win over Warriors for 9th straight
It’s too early to say the old Danny Granger is back, but he’s looked better in each game he’s played. Granger scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, the most points he had scored since April 19, 2012. He was most impressive on the defensive end, though, where he looked far more active and athletic than at any point this season. He stuffed Andrew Bogut at the rim, made sound rotations, and dropped back to grab and tip rebounds. All-around great effort.
As Rivers noted, the Warriors cross-matched defensively, with Klay Thompson defending Paul for most of the game. Their perimeter length bothered Paul, who shot just 5 of 15 from the floor. In turn, Golden State took advantage of the Clippers’ small backcourt, routinely posting up Thompson (26 points) and Iguodala (13) on Darren Collison. If the Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick continue to miss considerable time, L.A. will need to adjust sooner.
Defending the 3-point line
Objective No. 1 against the Warriors is running them off the 3-point line. They have several deadeye shooters — Curry, Thompson and Steve Blake, in particular — that are automatic if given any space. Overall, the Dubs shot 8 of 21 (38.1 percent) from deep, which is five percent better than the Clippers’ league-leading 3-point defense normally gives up. It didn’t cost L.A. tonight, but it could in the playoffs.
‘No love lost’
As David Lee said post-game, there is "no love lost" between these teams. Bogut, Jermaine O’Neal and Draymond Green took turns doling out hard fouls on Griffin, and Griffin retaliated early by shoving Green in the back on a half-court heave. "There is a lot of different theatrics that go on within a basketball game just in general. But this series, on both sides, tops the cake," Bogut said. This would be a fun playoff series.