Undefeated Clippers and Warriors square off Wed.
The heavyweight matchup many wanted to see in May was wiped away with the Clippers' second-round collapse. Los Angeles might not be so eager to get a look at the Golden State Warriors right now.
The unbeaten Clippers finally get their shot at the reigning champs Wednesday night, though it comes against a Warriors team off to a historically good start and with perhaps a bit more motivation.
Stephen Curry is proving his MVP season was no fluke, and the Warriors (4-0) are winning with a combination of dazzling offense and stiff defense - even without coach Steve Kerr, who is recovering from offseason back surgery.
Kerr is missing quite a show. The most recent act was a 119-69 victory over Memphis on Monday that showed just how dominant the Warriors can be at home, where they have won a franchise-record 20 straight during the regular season.
Golden State, which opened 5-0 last season as part of a 21-2 start, shot 51.2 percent from the field and held the Grizzlies to 27.1 percent shooting while lowering its opponents' percentage from 3-point range to 25.6. The Warriors also outrebounded Memphis 65-44 and blocked 13 shots.
Curry scored 21 of his 30 points in the third quarter before sitting out the fourth. Curry has averaged 37.0 points with shooting percentages of 59.5 overall, 48.8 from 3-point range and 96.4 from the free-throw line. His 148 points through four games are the most since Michael Jordan put up 156 to open the 1991-92 season.
The 50-point victory over Memphis put Golden State in a league of its own, upping its average margin of victory to an NBA record 25.0 points through four games.
The way the Warriors are cruising has even Curry taken aback.
"It's surprising," said Curry. "I don't remember the last time that's ever happened to any guys on this team, being on the winning side of a 50-point game."
All three teams the Warriors have beaten - New Orleans twice, Houston and Memphis - were the same ones they eliminated en route to the NBA Finals last season.
The Clippers weren't on that list after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.
A preseason back-and-forth was sparked in October when Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers implied Golden State was lucky to not have faced his team or San Antonio in the postseason. Before Rivers backed off his statements, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut pointed to the Warriors' 3-1 regular season record against the Clippers.
Some say Rivers' comments served as motivation to fuel Golden State's hot start. J.J. Redick thinks his coach's words were skewed.
"I saw what Doc said that was taken out of context," Redick said. "Basically what Doc said is they didn't have any bad breaks. That was what he said. It wasn't that they were lucky to win. It was a big, big difference."
Rivers thinks Golden State's early success is more likely a carryover from the championship run.
"That swagger is hard to knock off," he said.
The Clippers have their own mojo working, securing their fourth 4-0 start and first since winning the first five games of the 1985-86 season with a 102-96 victory over Phoenix on Monday.
"It's good to start the season like this," center DeAndre Jordan said. "But we've got to be able to keep it going and improve with every game, find out which rotations work the best and which units work the best. We've got a long season to go and we've still got a lot of work to do."
Jordan, who is 12 rebounds away from tying Elton Brand's franchise record of 4,710, may have an easier time in the paint if Bogut can't go. Bogut is still working through the NBA's concussion protocol after getting injured against the Pelicans on Oct. 27.
Blake Griffin is off to a spectacular start with 29.5 points per game on 62.2 percent shooting, and he's averaged 24.1 points in his last 15 games against Golden State, including the postseason.
But Oracle Arena has typically been a nightmare for the Clippers. They've lost seven straight there since winning on Christmas Day 2011 - the first game Chris Paul played in a Los Angeles uniform.
"Hopefully I don't say anything dumb in the next 48 hours and we just play basketball," Rivers said Monday. "Don't bet on anything."