Editor’s note: Games 2 and 3 (and 5, 6 and 7 if necessary) of Warriors-Clippers will air on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Bookmark this page for comprehensive coverage of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series.
OAKLAND -- The Warriors on Thursday were polite and reserved at every mention of the team they meet in the first round of the playoffs, as if they're preparing for a business meeting with the Los Angeles JATs, as in Just Another Team.
The Warriors mostly avoided mentioning their opponent by team nickname or by individuals on the roster. And it seemed less a case of utter disregard than of simply playing it straight.
It's as if they'd been coached up and ordered to stand down. Or, maybe, in the wake of Klay Thompson's mildly provocative comments in a radio interview on Tuesday, they had received from the NBA office a new handbook for interview protocol.
So there is a very real possibility that unless someone from the Clippers starts firing verbal shots, the action will be limited to the basketball court.
Which is perfectly fine, because there should be plenty to digest between the lines.
Here are five of the more intriguing matchups/storylines as the teams prepare for their best-of-seven series beginning Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Stephen Curry vs. Chris Paul:
Paul is the best classic point guard in the league, and Curry the best new-age scoring point guard. It's a clash of styles but should be absolutely riveting. Paul is one of the five best leaders in the league. Curry is one of the five best scorers.
Curry is nuance and improvisation, Paul power and passion.
"We know each other pretty well," Curry said. "On the court there are no friends.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Don't be fooled by their boyish faces. Both Curry and Paul attack with abandon, playing with a determination beyond the fierce.
Who has the edge? We're calling this one even.
David Lee vs. Blake Griffin:
Lee is playing at about 80 percent, Griffin at about 90 percent. Each growls internally at the thought of the other. It's one of the NBA's savviest offensive power forwards, Lee, against the league's most comprehensively dynamic forces.
Lee works himself into a lather at the prospect of facing Griffin. D-Lee likes to represent and he knows the cameras are never far from Blake.
Griffin has put himself in the third tier of the MVP discussion, behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Lee was on the outskirts of the All-Star team discussion.
Who has the edge? This one goes to Griffin.
Jermaine O'Neal vs. DeAndre Jordan:
This would have been worthy of main event status -- if O'Neal were in his prime. Instead, we have the aging but proud gladiator trying to keep up with arguably the most athletic center in the league.
With starting center Andrew Bogut unavailable, the Warriors have no choice but the turn to the 18-year veteran.
[RELATED: Warriors trying to move on without Bogut]
O'Neal missed nearly half the season but was an important member of the Warriors. But he's best suited for a part-time role. Jordan led the league in rebounding, was third in blocks and played more minutes than any other power forward or center.
"Everybody on this team has to know they had to do more anyway," O'Neal said. "That's what the playoffs are about. The difference is, I'm going to have to play more minutes right away."
Who has the edge? This one goes to Jordan.
Klay Thompson vs. J. J. Redick:
Thompson loves to play against the L.A. teams and relishes test that comes with defending CP3. He'll be excited to face Darren Collison or Jamal Crawford or Redick or any of the other Clippers guards because none is capable of guarding him.
Thompson this season moved comfortably into the role of the Warriors' second-best player. And he's only going to get better.
Who has the edge? This one goes to Thompson.
Mark Jackson vs. Doc Rivers:
Jackson is in his third season as a coach. Rivers is in his 15th season as a coach, is working with his third team and has evolved into one of the league's Top 3.
Behind Rivers is an associate head coach, Alvin Gentry, with more than 700 games as an NBA head coach. Kevin Eastman is a former major college head coach. No. 4 assistant Brendan O'Connor has been coaching and scouting the league since 2000.
Behind Jackson are Pete Myers and Lindsey Hunter and, well, an assortment of eager young hoop junkies not named Darren Erman or Brian Scalabrine, both of whom were dismissed in the final weeks of the regular season.
Who has the edge? This one goes to Rivers and the Clippers.