Warriors, Clippers to resume spicy rivalry

Los Angeles Clippers' coach Doc Rivers points to his player during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/AP

LOS ANGELES — The last time they met, the Golden State Warriors smoked the Los Angeles Clippers 120-75 in an exhibition on Oct. 4 at Oracle Arena.

Afterward, Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who frequently likes to tweak the Warriors with snarky comments, said Golden State approached the contest like a postseason game while his club showed up for glorified scrimmage.

On Wednesday, the two Western Conforence foes engage in the first of four regular-season clashes as the Warriors visit the Clippers at Staples Center.

The Warriors (18-3), who own the NBA's best record, captured six in a row over the Clippers, including the last three at Staples. The bitterness between the two clubs began in earnest during their 2014 playoff series, which the Clippers won in seven games. It reached a boiling point after Game 7 at Staples, where several players from both teams enaged in verbal confrontations in the hallway between the locker rooms. Since then, it's been one of the league's spiciest entrees.

As much as Rivers has gone out of his way to publicly downplay any rivalry between the two clubs, the players tell a different story.

“They're a top team in the West, a top team in the league no matter what,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin told the Los Angeles Times before Tuesday's practice. “Yeah, it's a different type of game than if you're playing the last seed in the East. Absolutely it is. I'd be lying to come in and just say it's a regular game.

“Anytime there's hype. … This is the most media I've seen before a game this whole season. Obviously, you guys will make it that.”

The Warriors are coming off a 142-106 rout of the Indiana Pacers behind Klay Thompson's 60-point performance in 29 minutes. Thompson, who scored 40 points in the first half, connected on 21 of 32 shots from the floor and 8 of 14 from 3-point range.

“I've never seen anything like it,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds in only 22 minutes, told the Bay Area News Group. “In 29 minutes? And not even play the fourth quarter? That's unheard of. I mean I've watched Kobe (Bryant) score (81) and 62 in three quarters but to be on a team and be at the game and be on the sideline to watch it, that was crazy.”

The Warriors have been on a major roll. They won 14 of their last 15 games, a 132-127 double-overtime loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday being the only blemish. Golden State leads the league in points per game (120.2) — scoring more than 140 twice this season, assists (32) and field-goal shooting (50.3 percent).

The Warriors also average a league-high 9.6 steals per contest.

Meanwhile, the Clippers (16-6), who got off to one of the league's best starts, have struggled lately. One night before the Pacers ventured to Oakland, Calif., they beat the Clippers 111-102, handing Los Angeles its fourth loss in six games.

Fatigue has been one of the reasons mentioned for their troubles, some of the players admit. Since Oct. 30, Los Angeles played 21 games in 37 days, one of the busiest runs in the league.

But the Clippers swear the early wear and tear is no reason for excuses.

“I think our record could have been a lot better over this past stretch, which is the toughest part,” point guard Chris Paul said. “We knew we were going into a six-week stretch without having two days (off) between games, but I'm glad that we got through it. I'm still a little disappointed (with the losses) because given the situation we still had given ourselves more opportunities to win.”