Intradivision rivalries are few and far between in today's NBA, but there may be hope yet for the revival of bad blood and vitriol if the Los Angeles Clippers and top-seeded Golden State Warriors wind up on a collision course come playoff time.
Between last season's seven-game meeting in the first round, the Warriors' rapid rise, Los Angeles' talent pool and some compelling interpersonal rifts, a postseason redux would set the stage for an epic seven-game battle between the NBA's top two offenses.
With the Warriors and Clippers ready to close out their season series (Golden State leads 2-1) Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT, the Pacific Division foes have a chance to lay groundwork for what would assuredly be an epic postseason clash.
"It's no secret: They don't like us. We don't like them," Warriors forward Draymond Green said, according to CSN Bay Area's Monte Poole. "And that's not going to change."
Let's get ready to rumble.
Offensive Firepower Galore
Who says the pace of play needs to slow down come playoff time? During the 2014 Western Conference quarterfinals, the Warriors and Clippers churned out more than 96 possessions per game, with offensive ratings of 110.5 and 115.1, respectively.
This season, neither team has deviated from that trend.
The Clippers and Warriors rank first and second, respectively, in offensive efficiency, with Golden State pushing the pace at a league-best rate of 100.58 possessions per 48 minutes.
|Tale of the Tape|
|Team||Offensive Rating||League Rank||Defensive Rating||League Rank||FG%||League Rank||3P%||League Rank|
|Golden State Warriors||109.5||2||97.4||1||47.8||1||39.7||1|
|Los Angeles Clippers||109.6||1||103.0||18||47.3||2||37.5||3|
Those rapturous offensive totals have been accumulated primarily through the team's otherworldly starting lineups, which have jockeyed back and forth for top net-rating awards out West.
To be clear, the Clippers' unit is comprised of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, while the Warriors tout Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Green and Andrew Bogut.
Golden State's defense gives it the slightest of edges, but the disparity in offensive efficiency between the two groups is noteworthy—even if they're both elite.
Consider it an analytical version of the "unstoppable force meeting immovable object" paradigm.
"He Don't Play"
What's a rivalry without hatred?
As Yahoo! Sports' Kelly Dwyer wrote, "The Clippers and Warriors don't like each other. Years into their rivalry, the two teams are now relying on a role player gone boffo and a longtime NBA instigator to keep things interesting."
In this case, the role player and instigator of note are Green and career journeyman Dahntay Jones.
Following the Warriors' 106-98 win over the Clippers on March 8, Jones hit Green with a sly bump on his way off the court that had Green looking ready to drop the gloves:
Green responded with some choice words for the 34-year-old following the win, per ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss:
The chippiness has extended beyond postgame pleasantries too, with technical fouls, flagrants and scuffles emerging as part of the status quo anytime the Clippers and Warriors meet.
It's also unequivocally the league's most high-stakes rivalry when players are conjuring up thoughts of a guillotine.
"We want to take their heads off, and they want to take our heads off," Green said, per Poole. "That's just the way it is, so just roll with the punches."
Good luck finding another head-to-head clash producing that much violent imagery.
Curry, Paul and Griffin, Oh My
Every good rivalry needs to be backed up by star power, and this one packs it in spades.
And yes, Curry has Paul's number for the time being after sending him flying with a slick pump fake that preceded a silky-smooth jump shot on March 8:
Paul has been the more prolific scorer and passer when the two have shared the floor, but Curry owns the upper hand in the one metric that really matters at the end of the day: wins.
While a more traditional point guard label has been bestowed upon Paul over the years, Curry explained why that concept has become antiquated for floor generals of all shapes and sizes.
"The game is advancing so much that you can't have any weakness," Curry said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons. "That doesn't mean that you have to go out and shoot every shot that you see, but you have to be able to put the ball in the basket when you're playing the point guard position—knowing how spaced the floor is."
Each player has a signature style of swishing and dishing conducive to show-stopping moments, but it's the staggering consistency at which they produce those moments that elevates the Warriors-Clippers rivalry to the next level.
Factor in Blake Griffin—the only player not named Russell Westbrook averaging at least 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists this season—the ever-bouncy DeAndre Jordan and the exceptional perimeter potency of Klay Thompson, and fireworks will never be few and far between.
Raising the Bar
Frankly, no other present NBA rivalry comes close to touching what the Warriors and Clippers have to offer.
Sure, fun narratives exist between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, and Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder. But the high caliber of disdain L.A. and Golden State can offer in tandem with elite talent and execution thrusts it to the front of the pack and into a tier of their own.
And here's the good news: This thing's just getting started.
After both franchises endured decades littered with futility, the Warriors and Clippers are both firing on all cylinders in an attempt to one-up each other for left coast superiority.
With malevolence oozing out of both teams, expect the Pacific Division to be ruled by scorn for years to come.