Why We Should Root for a Warriors-Clippers Playoff Series

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Why We Should Root for a Warriors-Clippers Playoff Series
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors played the fourth and final installment of their riveting regular-season series on Wednesday, with the Clippers prevailing, 111-98. 

Don't let the final score fool you: These two rivals played a tense, exciting game up until the final minutes.

And the fireworks continued after the game, as star forward Blake Griffin got into a bit of a confrontation with veteran backup big Jermaine O'Neal, per the Orange County Register's Dan Woike:

Starting Warriors center Andrew Bogut took exception with some of the Clippers' actions after plays, per ESPN Los Angeles' Jovan Buha:

These comments are reminiscent of these two teams' now-infamous Christmas Day fracas, when Draymond Green was ejected for elbowing Griffin in the neck and Griffin was ejected after piling up two technicals tussling with the Golden State bigs. 

After the game, which the Clippers lost, Griffin went off on the Warriors, per the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons:

Unfortunately, Griffin seems to have learned his lesson, as the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner reported after Wednesday's game that the Clippers big refused to comment on the alleged incident with O'Neal.

Make no mistake: This has all the makings of a basketball blood feud between a pair of talented young teams. These hostilities date all the way back to last season. Who could forget David Lee hurling the "stop flopping" insult Griffin's way?

And with the Clippers and Warriors currently occupying the third and sixth seeds, respectively, in the Western Conference, there is a legitimate chance we could see this beautiful matchup in the first round.

 

Good Teams, Better Matchup

Golden State went into halftime with a 56-54 lead thanks to a combined 35 points from Klay Thompson (11), Andre Iguodala (10) and David Lee (14). 

But the Clippers would pull ahead for good by the end of a back-and-forth third quarter, holding off a brief Golden State rally in the fourth before dropping the final nail into the coffin with a 14-5 run in the final minutes.

Griffin finished the night with yet another 30-point gamehis 15th of the season, matching James Harden and his Tuesday-night rival, Golden State's Steph Curry, for fifth among all players.

Curry would finish the game with a disappointing 13 points, though he did rack up 11 assists. Thompson led all Warriors in scoring with 26 points.

When you look at the firepower on both of these rosters, it's not hard to imagine a scintillating postseason matchup, even without all the personal history. Both squads are loaded with weapons in the starting five but have struggled at times to get production out of their reserves. Per HoopsStats.com, Golden State and L.A. rank 22nd and 24th, respectively, in efficiency rating difference between starters and bench.

Surprisingly, it was the bench that helped keep the Clippers in the game through those critical first three quarters. Danny Granger and Willie Green were revelations in the backcourt for L.A. on Wednesday. Granger, the former Indiana Pacers All-Star whose career has been derailed by knee problems, scored 18 points, his highest total since 2012. Green, a key performer for the Clippers bench last season, chipped in a season-high 13. 

Those points came in handy early on, as Granger's 14 first-half points helped to pick up a Clippers starting unit that, with the exception of Griffin, looked to be struggling. 

Any contributions from Granger and Green would be welcomed by coach Doc Rivers, who has seen his once-stocked stable of wing players turn into a virtual MASH unit. J.J. Redick might not return this season due to back problems, and Jamal Crawford is still out with a nagging calf injury. Even the struggling Jared Dudley has not been an option of late, as he missed the three previous games with back spasms.

Rivers only needed to play Dudley 15 seconds on Wednesday, thanks to the inspired play of Granger and Green—a fact that was good for everyone involved.

On the other end, Golden State's midseason bench pickups, Steve Blake and Jordan Crawford, struggled mightily. The two combined for zero points, 19 fewer than Crawford managed by himself in Tuesday's win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Still, Hardwood Paroxysm's Seerat Sohi believes that Blake is a quality pickup:

 

The Odds Are Not in Our Favor

With so many teams bunched so closely together, predicting first-round matchups in the Western Conference is a bit of a fool's errand.

Though the Clippers are likely to win the Pacific Division—their closest interdivision rivals being these same Warriors—they could still very well fall to fourth. The Houston Rockets are tied with L.A. in the loss column, with the Clippers holding a one-game advantage thanks to two extra victories. As good as they've been of late, they have not been able to pull away from the Rockets, who have won 15 of their last 18 games.  

While the Warriors have a slightly higher margin for error, they sit only two games above the hard-charging Memphis Grizzlies. That's right, Clippers fans: Your team sits on the precipice of yet another L.A.-Memphis playoff series.

Let's face it: There is no bad potential Western Conference playoff pairing. The current 1-8 matchup, Mavericks vs. San Antonio, would be an offense-heavy thriller featuring two of the greatest players of all time in Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan.

Even the ninth-place squad (the Phoenix Suns) would provide a stiffer challenge than half the playoff teams in the East.

But there's just something about Clippers-Warriors—that intoxicating blend of star power and mutual hatred. Basketball fans around the world should be praying for this matchup come playoff time.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

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