Doc Rivers joked that he didn’t have a concession speech ready for his team likely finishing behind the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division.
“I’m going to Romney it,” the Clippers coach said Sunday, referring to presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s waiting nearly two hours to concede after pollsters called the 2012 election in favor of Barack Obama. “I’m going to wait for the last second.”
There’s probably no need for that.
Even before Clippers forward Blake Griffin was sidelined last month by a staph infection in his right elbow, the Warriors were well on their way to a landslide victory in the division race.
Golden State’s lead in the division was a nearly insurmountable 10 games after it posted a 106-98 triumph over the Clippers at Oracle Arena that was more of a Nixon-McGovern rout than the final score indicated.
The Warriors (49-12) led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter on the way to improving their NBA-best home record to 27-2. The Clippers (40-23) were short-handed without Griffin and sixth man Jamal Crawford, not to mention short on toughness against a hated rival.
“I think we just got real lackadaisical and they never really felt us,” said Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who had 14 points, 11 assists and one scary moment after knocking knees with Warriors counterpart Stephen Curry.
Actually, the Clippers literally rubbed their nemeses the wrong way after the game, adding a bizarre chapter to a rivalry fraught with ejections and technical fouls.
Clippers reserve Dahntay Jones bumped Draymond Green in the arm while walking past the Warriors forward during Green’s interview on national television.
“I think he wanted a reaction from me, but he doesn’t play,” Green told reporters afterward. “So me getting suspended and him getting suspended, it’s different. When you don’t play, that’s probably his role on that team. . . . I can’t afford to feed into that where I get into it with him after the game and get fined, get suspended.”
Green finished with 23 points for Golden State, which transformed a somewhat taut game into a rout by outscoring the Clippers, 30-18, in the third quarter. The surge included a three-pointer chucked up by Curry with 10 seconds left on the shot clock after he had dribbled through a bevy of Clippers defenders like they were traffic cones.
“I was yelling, ‘Plenty of time, plenty of time,’” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said, “and then he throws the ball up and I’m saying, ‘What are you doing . . . good job.’”
The Clippers held Curry to 12 points on three-for-nine shooting but had considerably less success stopping Green, Klay Thompson or former Clipper Shaun Livingston, the latter two players each scoring 21 points.
Clippers backup point guard Austin Rivers intimated that Griffin’s presence would have changed a few things.
“Just think if he was back, honestly, what Draymond Green is doing out there,” said Rivers, who finished with a team-high 22 points. “You’ve got Blake out there? That’s all I’ll say.”
If the Clippers’ defense was bad, their offense was worse, the ball movement lacking and jump shots outnumbering good looks near the basket.
Nate Robinson made one of six shots in his Clippers debut and small forward Matt Barnes scored nine points in his return from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him the previous two games.
“The ball movement is key for us to be successful offensively,” Barnes said. “We don’t have somebody to pound the ball down in the post right now. We’ve got to move the ball.”
The Warriors have won two of three games against the two-time defending division champion Clippers this season, with the last meeting coming March 31 at Staples Center. Both games in Oakland have been one-sided Clippers losses, the Warriors having routed them 121-104 here in November.
Of course, there’s always the playoffs, the ultimate runoff in any NBA rivalry.
“We can beat them. That’s all I can say,” Austin Rivers said. “We have earlier this year. So it’s 2-1 and we’ll see them again.”