And in an NBA that's relatively devoid of prominent rivalries like the ones that litter the annals of the league's history, that's enough for them to become the premier rivalry in the Association. Well, that and a couple other factors.
When evaluating whether two teams qualify as rivals, they must meet three all-important criteria:
- They must be competing for the same goal in a way that promotes a sense of competition, one that goes beyond what's normally exhibited by two teams.
- They must have a history, whether long or short, that's intense and entertaining.
- They can't like each other. Not one bit.
So, do the Dubs and Clippers qualify?
Competing for the Same Goal
Both the Clippers and the Warriors are fighting for the same end game during the 2013-14 season. Not only do they want to finish at the top of the Pacific Division, but they'd like to finish as close to the No. 1 seed as possible in the brutally difficult Western Conference.
Is this obvious?
Sure, but that doesn't take away from the significance of two squads competing for the same goal while trying to erase the years of futility from the memory banks of their respective fanbases.
The Clippers have only made the playoffs six times since moving to San Diego prior to the start of the 1978-79 season. They've won just two playoff series in more than three decades, and the franchise has never made it to the conference finals.
Seriously, it had been that long. From 1979-80 through 2004-05, only the '91-92 Clippers managed to finish on the right side of .500. There's a reason they were consistently the laughingstock of the NBA—prior to the arrival of the Charlotte Bobcats—and the clear-cut little brothers to the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, the Dubs aren't all that different.
Thanks to Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry and the other stars of the past, the early, Philadelphia- and San Francisco-based portion of this franchise's history was filled with success. But since 1975-76, when Barry averaged 21 points per game, Golden State hasn't advanced to the conference finals either.
If we look at the same time frame—1978-79 and on—the Warriors made the playoffs just seven times and won a grand total of five playoff series.
That's what makes this even more significant.
Both of these franchises are essentially upstarts. The success they're experiencing now is a relatively recent development, and they're fighting for the same division title, the same conference title, the same championship and—perhaps most importantly—the same respect.
There's only so much of each prize that can be given out. And while the Clippers are the clubhouse favorites with a 4.5-game lead on their rivals, anything can happen over the course of a lengthy NBA season.
All it takes is one long run of undefeated basketball, and everything suddenly gets topsy-turvy.
Consistently Great Games
The second element of a rivalry is that the teams must actually play great games.
So far this season, the two contests between L.A. and Golden State have been nothing short of spectacular.
In the first game, the Clippers exploded for 126 in an 11-point victory, one that was filled with nothing but entertainment. Even though it wasn't particularly close, the point guards kept everyone's eyes glued to the screen.
CP3 posted 42 points, 15 assists and six steals while taking only 20 shots, and Stephen Curry notched 38 points and nine assists of his own. Even though it was Paul who posted the best line, it was the Paul-Griffin combination that created the biggest set of highlights during the third quarter:
Game 2 of the season series was even better.
Playing on Christmas Day, the Warriors helped make up for the boring matchups earlier on the holiday by rallying during the fourth quarter and emerging with a two-point victory. But the story of the game wouldn't die right after the buzzer sounded.
"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 told the Associated Press (via ESPN) after he was ejected for his second technical foul following a scuffle with Andrew Bogut. "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."
That managed to overshadow everything, especially because the NBA issued a statement the next day saying that Griffin shouldn't have been ejected.
Of course, the game itself was spectacular even without the power forward taking part in the closing festivities. It came down to the final seconds, and then CP3 created a bit of a skirmish after the final whistle by trying to take the ball away from the Dubs for some inexplicable reason.
If you watched the game, the proceedings are going to be burned into your brain because they were just that memorable. And they prompted wishes for another meeting between the two teams:
Blake Griffin didn't talk pregame but the smile on his face said enough. Clippers-Warriors III on Jan. 30 should be good.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 27, 2013
Clippers/Warriors play twice more this season I believe. Hopefully more than that.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) December 26, 2013
I believe that CBS Sports' Bryan Fischer is referring to a potential playoff series between these two burgeoning rivals. As good as the remaining regular-season games are sure to be, it's tough to fathom just how intense a seven-game series would be with the right to advance further into the postseason on the line.
But good games aren't enough to create a rivalry by themselves. There must be pure, unadulterated hatred on both sides.
This is where the Dubs and Clippers start to differentiate themselves from the NBA's other premier rivalry: the Pacers and Heat.
While Indiana and Miami are competing for the same goal and have an entertaining history thanks to the games this year and the unforgettable 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, you don't get the sense that the teams truly hate each other.
They want to beat the stuffing out of each other, sure, but only so they can advance to the next stage of the journey. That's different than wanting to thoroughly demoralize an opponent because it's personal and not just a way to move on to the next step of the road toward the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
And make no mistake about it. The Dubs and Clippers actively despise one another.
In addition to Griffin's comments about Golden State being "cowardly," we even have the often reserved Stephen Curry weighing in:
Notice that there's no denial after the question is posed. Nowhere does Steph say that the Dubs don't really dislike their newfound rivals. He just answers the question honestly.
And this isn't exactly lost on the world:
Man, Warriors and Clippers really love each other.— Rey-Rey (@TheNoLookPass) December 26, 2013
I am one who usually believes it takes a playoff series to start a real rivalry. But there’s something started with Clippers-Warriors.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) December 26, 2013
There is no love lost between these two teams, nor will there be as long as the current rosters remain in place. The stars actively dislike each other, and there's going to be no mercy shown whenever they're asked to face each other again.
At the beginning of the season, Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group even revealed that the teams weren't interested in holding chapel together. He wrote: "According to multiple sources, the Warriors were surprisingly given a separate, earlier, time for their own chapel services. The Clippers held their own private chapel."
Do the Warriors and Clippers have the best rivalry in basketball?
Well, at this point in the 2013-14 campaign, that may not be enough. They may even have to find separate chapels, not just separate times at the same one.
Even with only a handful of games under their belts and no playoff series between the two to speak of, Golden State and Los Angeles have emerged at the top of the lackluster heap of current NBA rivalries. Thanks to player movement and desires that trump loyalty in many cases, the modern landscape is relatively devoid of teams that truly dislike each other.
Here's hoping the bad blood between these two teams keeps boiling.