The signs of dislike and fiery competition are right there on the court, with the players involved.
An all-California Christmas nightcap got heated in a hurry. Flailing arms, swinging elbows, even tussling that spilled into the postgame exit with Stephen Jackson mouthing off in the middle of it all.
Golden State’s Draymond Green was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul after the third quarter of the Warriors’ 105-103 win Wednesday night for throwing an elbow on a play that drew a technical on Blake Griffin, then Griffin followed him to the locker room with 10:43 remaining when he drew his second technical.
The thing is: The Clippers questioned whether Golden State did all it could to ignite Griffin and get him thrown out.
If this isn’t a rivalry, it’s darn close.
”I still believe this isn’t a rivalry because neither one of us have done anything,” Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. ”It was two teams playing with an edge competing against each other.”
That’s not quite how Griffin and Clippers coach Doc Rivers saw it.
”If you look at it, I didn’t do anything and I got thrown out of the game. It all boils down to they (referees) fell for it,” Griffin said.
”To me, it’s cowardly basketball. I don’t know their intentions, but it worked. … If I knew the answer I’d probably be in a different position. Tonight I got two technicals for nothing.”
With Griffin gone, the Clippers missed several key chances in the waning moments.
Klay Thompson blocked a shot by Chris Paul with 1 second left then contested Jamal Crawford’s 3-pointer that fell short at the final buzzer as the Warriors rallied in the second half.
Griffin was ejected for his second technical after scuffling with Andrew Bogut, following Green to the showers.
Paul’s lay-in with 11.9 seconds left went around the rim and out, but Andre Iguodala missed a pair of free throws with 9.3 seconds remaining. That gave the Clippers the ball back with 8.3 seconds to go.
Stephen Curry overcame a slow start to score seven of his 15 points over the final 3:01 to go with 11 assists as Golden State snapped the Pacific Division-leading Clippers’ season-best five-game winning streak. Thompson finished with 23 points and David Lee had 23 points and 13 rebounds.
When the game ended, players tangled near the tunnel to the Clippers’ locker room and security personnel stepped in – and former Warriors swingman Jackson could be seen screaming in the fray.
Whether the Warriors intended to ignite Griffin, Rivers can only guess.
”I don’t know if they were but it sure looked like it. I can’t accuse them of that but it looked like it. I’m not sure but that’s what it looked like,” Rivers said. ”It’s whatever you have to do to win, I guess.”
This one sure was feisty and festive from the opening tipoff at sold-out Oracle Arena, where fans wore ”Christmas Whiteout” snowflake Warriors T-shirts for the holiday occasion.
Paul had 26 points and 11 assists as he and Curry put on a late-game show between two of the Western Conference’s top point guards. Griffin added 20 points, 14 rebounds and five assists before his early exit.
Bogut added 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Both Rivers and Jackson said before the game this can’t truly be a rivalry until both teams are consistent contenders year after year.
It’s certainly getting testy enough to be close to such status. And they see each other twice more. The Clippers come back Jan. 30.
”We like them. Merry Christmas,” Jackson said jokingly. ”It’s just physical basketball, so we don’t get caught up in that. … It’s good, old-fashioned basketball between two teams that are playing for something.”
Griffin was held back by teammates at the end of the third quarter while jawing with Green. Following a review, Griffin received a technical and Green was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 after throwing an elbow.
”You have some key matchups in the game where guys want to go at each other,” Green said. ”Any time you have that, you’re going to have a tough, hard-nosed game.”
Then, officials went to review once more to look at a tussle between Griffin and Bogut. Griffin left the game while Bogut was hit with a flagrant 1 and a technical.
The Clippers, who never trailed in the first half, took a 77-74 lead into the see-saw fourth. They dropped to 19-3 when leading after three quarters and 8-3 on the road.
Los Angeles beat Golden State 126-115 at home on Oct. 31 to hand the Warriors their first loss a day after a season-opening win against the Lakers.
Curry performed when it mattered, though he is shooting just 9 for 44 in three Christmas games. Lee and Bogut each have double digits in rebounds in 10 straight games.
”We were kicking their butts and they went to something else, to be honest,” Rivers said of triggering the second technical on Griffin. ”But that’s fine. We have to have better composure and just keep playing. … I thought in the basketball part of it we were showing them pretty well. All the other stuff worked in their favor, so it’s a smart thing for them to do.”