If you are a young basketball fan, you may not remember that there was a time when both the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers lived in the basement of the Western Conference. Given both teams’ relatively rapid ascensions to elite status around relatively the same time, it was only natural that they would find themselves in direct competition on more than one occasions. But these two teams share a pretty unique, bitter, mutual disdain for each other. At least… they did.
VIDEO: Stephen Curry on when Warriors-Clippers rivalry started: “Probably that 1st year we made playoffs” 📺 (1:41) https://t.co/JU7bcb0zeG
— LetsGoWarriors (@LetsGoWarriors) December 7, 2016
After last night’s game in which the Warriors delivered a 144-98 pounding to the Clippers, it seems pretty clear what is going on here. The Clippers may continue to hate the Warriors all they want, but the Warriors are over it. They don’t care. There is no more rivalry between these two teams.
Let’s take a brief look back at how this rivalry started in the first place. Rewind to the 2012-13 NBA season. The Clippers core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan was set. They were early favorites to contend and come out of the West, while the Warriors were fresh off a 23-43 (lockout-shortened) season.
The two teams met on November 3rd, each team playing their third game of the season. As the Warriors fought their way to a close victory, the story after the game would be how physical the two teams were with each other – highlighted by then-Warriors forward David Lee and Blake Griffin having a brief skirmish during the game. Likewise, the excessive Warriors celebrations, led primarily by Kent Bazemore, caused Chris Paul to later remark to NBC Sports that, “You would have thought they won the NBA Finals.”
The two teams would split the season series the following season in 2013-14. Each game got more and more physical. Their games were characterized by technical fouls and flagrant fouls. Postgame altercations also occurred between the two teams, and if it wasn’t already clear during the season, the rivalry was officially born.
The Warriors and Clippers also proceeded to meet in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in 2014. The Clippers would win that series in seven games to advance to the second round. Following that gritty playoff series, things started to shift the next season.
The 2014-15 season was a landmark season for the Warriors. They fired head coach Mark Jackson, who had helped to oversee the team’s previous turnaround, and hired new head coach Steve Kerr. The Warriors just got better, Stephen Curry was healthy most of the season, and it was a season of franchise highs for the team, as Golden State finished the season with a 67-15 record, the most wins in franchise history and the best in the NBA that year.
On the other side of the rivalry, the Clippers finished with the number 3 seed in the West with a 56-26 record. The Clippers showed no massive signs of improvement. Beyond their pretty strong starting lineup, bench depth remained an issue, and their young mentality showed. The Warriors took the 2014-15 regular season series 3-1 en route to an eventual NBA Championship, with the Clippers’ only win coming in a 100-86 Christmas Day 2014 victory at Staples Center.
If that was not disappointing enough, the 2015-16 season was even worse for the “Battle of California” rivalry, as the Warriors would sweep the season series with the Clippers. The Clippers would also not make it to the second round in the playoffs, where they would have had another shot at their archenemies, falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
This season, the Warriors and Clippers have met twice so far, with both games resulting in Golden State delivering blowout victories over Los Angeles. Last night’s 46-point win was tied for the 4th largest margin of victory in Warriors franchise. That really says something about this rivalry.
Warriors just toyed with the Clippers tonight.
Final score: 144-98 pic.twitter.com/30MfmceFHr
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 29, 2017
The Warriors have now won eight straight games – yes, eight straight – over their California “rivals.” When one team – the Golden State Warriors – is clearly better than another team – the Los Angeles Clippers – is it really fair to still call it a rivalry? The Varsity team does not care about what is going on with the JV team, no matter how much latter may continue to bark at the former.
The Warriors have proven where the Clippers stand in comparison to them. The Clippers can continue to hate the Warriors all they want, but one thing is clear: this rivalry is officially dead.