OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The debate about whether the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers are growing into unlikely California rivals might just be a matter of vocabulary.
Call it what you want.
On the court, there's no denying the players don't like each other.
The Pacific Division-leading Clippers visit the Warriors on Thursday night for the first time since Golden State's win on Christmas featured two ejections, two flagrant fouls, three technical fouls, countless elbows and constant chatter.
"It's not a rivalry. We don't have bad blood," Warriors coach Mark Jackson insisted after practice Wednesday, doing his best to downplay the rematch. "In this league, when you're competing and teams are getting after it and you're jockeying for playoff position in your same division, it makes it exciting. We embrace it. They embrace it."
Golden State's marketing team is sure trying to capitalize on the game.
On Wednesday, the team's website directed visitors to a preview page with the headline: "Battle for the Pacific." It also touted the game as "the season's final appearance of the division rival Clippers."
"Hopefully it doesn't break out into any shenanigans," Clippers guard J.J. Redick said Wednesday night.
That nobody can agree on what to make of this revitalized series only speaks to how quickly it has blossomed even more. The physical play from both sides, though, has really said it all.
The games have grown increasingly testy the past two seasons as the franchises have transformed from perennial losers into Western Conference contenders. The most spirited meeting might have been the last one, a 105-103 win for the Warriors on Dec. 25 that left plenty of aches and accusations afterward.
Officials called a flagrant foul 2 on Warriors reserve Draymond Green for elbowing Clippers star Blake Griffin in the face while setting a screen near half court at the end of the third quarter. That earned Green an automatic ejection, and the NBA fined him $15,000 for failing to leave the court in a timely manner.
Griffin received a technical foul for jawing with Green, and he was ejected for his second technical with 10:43 remaining after scuffling with Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who grabbed Griffin by the shirt and began wrestling with him when the two got tangled up going for a rebound.
Bogut was whistled for a flagrant foul and a technical. The NBA said the following day that Griffin should have received a common foul and not a technical.
"Hopefully we can get Blake to play the whole game," Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. "It tends to get a little chippy, but I like that."