The Golden State Warriors have not had a hated rival in quite some time. Heck, they still do not.
One might look at the Sacramento Kings to play that part, but the teams have not played each other in the postseason and also, the Kings have not produced a winning record since 2005-06.
Sacramento and Golden State entertain a healthy distaste for each other by virtue of the fact they typically play four entertaining head-to-head contests each season. But it’s not exactly a rivalry considering that no high stakes are involved when they meet.
The same can be said about the relationship between the Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers. They play each other frequently, but again, these respective cores have not faced each other in the playoffs.
And yet, it would be hard to argue that there isn’t something brewing between the teams. Chris Paul and Stephen Curry routinely give fans a thrilling show, and it certainly helps that their squads are now playoff contenders.
The battles between the Clips and the Dubs make for compelling basketball and also result in a fairly significant prize: the Pacific division crown.
In an effort to change the fortunes of their franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers pulled off a trade with the New Orleans Hornets to bring in Chris Paul prior to the start of the 2011-12 season. His arrival in the City of Angels signaled a changing of the guard. The Clippers were about to become L.A.’s team at the expense of the Lakers.
The Clippers on the other hand instantly became respectable. With Paul on the squad, LAC stopped being a layup line, and instead morphed into a unit with a shot at advancing in the playoffs.
Little did we know at the time, but the Clippers’ ascension in the Pacific would hardly be an isolated incident.
Roughly three months later, the Warriors dealt Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks in a swap that headlined Andrew Bogut. The Aussie’s presence would only truly be felt in the ensuing campaign once Golden State entered the playoffs.
Where It All Began
Stephen Curry was shut down for the second half of the 2011-12 campaign because of lingering ankle problems, thus Dubs fans only got an opportunity to watch the sharpshooter appear in 26 of 66 games during the truncated season.
Curry never truly got the opportunity to get acclimated as the team’s best player immediately after the Monta Ellis trade. Thus, he started out the 2012-13 season a bit sluggish.
He struggled a little with the added burden but eventually found his footing. In the third game of the year, the Warriors visited the Clippers at Staples Center for what many expected would be an easy victory for the home team.
Instead, the Warriors came out strong and opened up the game with an early 18-6 first-quarter lead. The contest would end up being a back-and-forth battle, and ultimately Golden State prevailed by a final score of 114-100.
Curry had a tough shooting night but still produced 23 points by getting to the charity stripe. Paul was just as productive despite not hitting much from the field. CP3 poured in 27 points thanks to 20 free-throw attempts.
The stars shined bright and gave the fans their money’s worth. But that was hardly the lone story of the contest. The Dubs’ bench did a fabulous job of both maintaining the lead and even increasing it at times with timely scoring.
Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry recorded a combined 39 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists on 16-for-24 shooting from the field. Their overall play paved the way for a Golden State win despite the fact Curry struggled in the final moments of the game.
Steph coughed up the ball and missed two free throws down the stretch. Still, he had begun to gain an assassin’s disposition and it would be on full display in the following matchups against the Clippers.
Golden State won three of the four games versus LAC in 2012-13 and consequently, there was a slight sense that perhaps the Dubs owned the Clips.
Los Angeles wanted no part of that for obvious reasons, and tempers flared this season. Blake Griffin and Mark Jackson (!) got into it a little, but that was mostly child’s play in the grand scheme of things.
Andrew Bogut played the role of irritant, instigator and enforcer all at ounce against L.A. He mugged DeAndre Jordan earlier this year and then got a little physical with Griffin, which resulted in the ejection of the highflyer.
Warriors-Clippers was entertaining at first glance because of the talented players involved. The bad blood that has emerged from these head-to-head battles has taken this matchup to another level.
Since 2012-13, Golden State has won four of the six games with the Clippers, and none those contests have disappointed.
One has to believe that trend will continue…