Clippers’ meeting with archrival Warriors could serve as a referendum
The Golden State Warriors beat the Clippers to Los Angeles by more than a day before their Tuesday showdown, a quirk of the NBA schedule.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers hoped his team’s Pacific Division rivals made sure to pack their evening wear.
“They’re actually in L.A. right now, hopefully going out,” Rivers said Sunday night in Boston before his team boarded its charter flight back to Southern California after the completion of a three-game trip. “I’m hoping L.A. does its job tonight.”
Clippers-Warriors has become a red-carpet affair in itself, with the TNT telecast of the latest matchup at Staples Center potentially eligible for an Emmy for prime-time drama.
There’s the Draymond Green-vs.-Dahntay Jones story line that has been percolating since Jones was fined $10,000 for making postgame contact with the Warriors forward earlier this month during what could be described as “Bumpgate.”
That prompted a Green-vs.-Rivers brouhaha after Rivers poked fun at Green’s perceived overreaction to being brushed. Green then used Rivers’ given name when he told a Bay Area radio station, “Cool story, Glenn.”
Green wouldn’t leave it there, creating a line of hoodies and T-shirts with that phrase that he briefly sold over the Internet before halting sales because, as Green explained to reporters, he had the “utmost respect” for Rivers.
Green apparently didn’t feel the same way about Rivers’ son Jeremiah, the onetime Indiana Hoosier who called Green “lame” on Twitter.
“His son didn’t play at Indiana, though, so he can’t talk,” said Green, who starred at Big Ten rival Michigan State. “We’re not going to even say his name. Give him no publicity.”
Green might miss the game because of soreness in his shins, but he used even that as an opportunity to tweak the Clippers.
“I’m sitting out,” Green said half-jokingly, before taking a shot at Clippers forward Blake Griffin. “I’ve got Blake-itis.”
Of course, there are more than silly subplots in play.
The Clippers (49-25) are returning to the NBA portion of their schedule after a three-game trip during which they mauled sub-.500 teams. Golden State (60-13), which already has clinched the best record in the Western Conference, presents a far stiffer test as the Clippers attempt to extend their seven-game winning streak.
“We can’t catch them or nothing like that,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said, alluding to the Warriors having clinched their first division title since 1976, “but that’s the No. 1 team in the West, the No. 1 team in the league right now. We’ve been playing with a good rhythm, we’re going back home. We need the win worse than they do.”
Indeed, the Clippers remain in play to finish just about anywhere in Western Conference playoff seedings that remain more congested than the 405 freeway on a Friday evening.
Only three games separate the teams seeded second through sixth, meaning the standings and potential first-round playoff matchups are changing almost daily. If the playoffs had started Monday, the Clippers would have had the No. 5 seeding but would have held home-court advantage over No. 4-seeded Portland because they have a better record than the Trail Blazers. Portland can finish no lower than fourth by virtue of leading the Northwest Division.
Tuesday’s game could show whether the Clippers’ recent surge should scare the rest of the conference. Beating the likes of New York, Philadelphia and Boston in convincing fashion is one thing. But can the Clippers replicate that effort against the team with the best record in the NBA?
“You’ve got to do it against the best teams,” Griffin said. “It’s about us, about how we play, so it would mean something, but this next game or the next two games don’t make or break our season.”
The Clippers will play the Warriors after having taken a cross-country flight amid a schedule that includes eight games in eight different cities . . . not that the Clippers expect any preferential treatment.
“Because we’re flying back, they’re not going to let us start off with eight points or nothing like that,” Paul said, “so it’s kind of irrelevant. It doesn’t matter.”
CLIPPERS VS. WARRIORS
When: 7:30 p.m. PDT.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 49-25, Warriors 60-13.
Record vs. Warriors: 1-2.
Update: Each team has won on its home court heading into the final regular-season matchup between the Pacific Division rivals. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t believe there would be any grand takeaways from this game regardless of the outcome. “I just keep saying, I don’t over-value regular-season games,” Rivers said. “In the playoffs, everyone has had the exact same amount of rest. They’re in the exact same place. In the regular season, one team can be on a road trip, one team can be injured. You just don’t know. It still will be fun, and it’ll be a measuring stick.
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