The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers insist they aren't rivals, but their actions tell a much different tale.
Apparently, some more fuel was added to this raging Pacific Division fire after the Clippers beat the Warriors 111-98 at Staples Center Wednesday night.
According to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Warriors reserve center Jermaine O'Neal confronted Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin outside the L.A. locker room after the game. "The players had a heated discussion," Woike wrote, although he noted that it "didn’t become physical and ended with a handshake."
ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi had more details of the incident:
The two had a heated conversation that was quickly broken up by a Clippers official who led Griffin to the adjacent news conference room.
O'Neal, 35, had dressed and was waiting outside the Clippers' locker room to talk to Griffin.
Griffin, who was walking to the news conference room to take questions from reporters, could be heard telling O'Neal to "leave that s--- on the court" before the two were separated and briefly shook hands.
Griffin to O'Neal: "Why you want to walk up on me? Leave that (stuff) on the court." O'Neal to Blake: "I'm a monster off the court."— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) March 13, 2014
A rivalry by any other name apparently smells just as sweet.
Their season series began on a strange note. Prior to the teams' meeting on Halloween, the Clippers elected to hold separate chapel services from the Warriors.
That later seemed like an ominous foreshadowing when starting centers Andrew Bogut and DeAndre Jordan engaged in a shoving match during the game.
When the two sides met again on Christmas night, both Griffin and Warriors reserve forward Draymond Green were ejected from the contest. Green was tossed for a flagrant-2 foul on Griffin, who later exited after picking up his second technical foul of the game.
Griffin may have unleashed his mightiest jab in the postgame comments, though:
Blake Griffin: “When you look at it, I didn’t do anything, and I got thrown out of the game. ... To me, it’s cowardly basketball.”— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) December 26, 2013
The teams have met twice since that Christmas clash and largely played nice. (Maybe it's a holiday thing?) Or so it seemed, at least.
Sadly, this was the last regular-season matchup between the Pacific Division powers. But the basketball world can still keep its collective fingers crossed about a potential seven-game slugfest down the line.
"At this point, it’d be a shame if we don’t got a Warriors-Clippers playoff matchup," NBC Sports' Dan Feldman wrote.
We just might be in luck. If the season ended today, the third-seeded Clippers would host an opening-round series against the sixth-seeded Warriors.
Maybe then both parties could admit what the rest of us can clearly see—this is absolutely a rivalry. And an unbelievably exciting one at that.