Jackson denies W's-Clips rivalry: 'We like them'
The Warriors' Christmas win was spiced with three skirmishes, including one after the buzzer, and two ejections. (USATSI)
OAKLAND -- The gentlemen coaches of the Warriors and Clippers would like you to believe there is no rivalry between the teams. We haven't done enough to warrant that classification, they say. We're just two teams trying to get somewhere.
Don't buy the tripe. Trust your eyes and ears. Read the words. Something fierce is brewing between these recently revivified franchises.
In the wake of a hotly contested 105-103 Warriors win on Christmas night at Oracle Arena -- a game spiced by three skirmishes, including one after the buzzer, and two ejections -- the postgame comments of Clippers coach Doc Rivers only cranked up the flame.
"We were kicking their butts," Rivers said, "and they went to something else."
The clear insinuation was that preacher Mark Jackson's Warriors were not up to the athletic task and thus resorted to brawl-ball. The Dubs, Doc was saying, turned thug.
"But that's fine," Rivers said, the phrase of a man submerging fury. "We have to have better composure and just keep playing. There's no doubt about that. But the basketball part of it, we were showing them pretty well. All the other stuff worked in their favor. So it's a smart thing for them to do.
Hmmm. This of course means it's not fine, that Rivers thought the Warriors, failing to contain star forward Blake Griffin, baited him into a pair of technical fouls and an automatic ejection.
Jackson was simultaneously holding his own news conference, so had no immediate reaction to Rivers' comments. That'll come on Thursday, after Jackson has heard it and had half a day to digest it.
The coach is from New York, as he likes to remind us, implying that he's hardwired to stand his ground. He said, in essence, that any blood on the floor is mere evidence of teams playing "good, old-fashioned basketball."
But when asked if there was a beef between the teams, Jackson responded with just enough mockery to make his point.
"We like them," he said. "Merry Christmas."
That's not what Draymond Green was saying at the end of the third quarter when he flung what he implied was a retaliatory elbow at Griffin's face, drawing an ejection. Griffin got a technical foul.
That's not what Andrew Bogut was saying precisely 77 seconds later during his brief clutching bout with Griffin, who picked up a second technical and the automatic ejection that comes with it.
And Griffin wasn't saying "Merry Christmas" or "I like them" after the game, either.
"I didn’t do anything and got thrown out of the game," he said. "It all boils down to (the officials) fell for it.
"That's cowardly, cowardly basketball."
No, that's what happens when rivals meet. Hatred is in the air, even if Green insists the tension is a matter of "key matchups in the game where guys want to go at each other."
Even if David Lee is saying, "I wouldn't call it a rivalry."
It's a rivalry. It's not a championship-level rivalry because the Warriors last won it all in 1975 and the Clippers are chasing their first title. Neither team is a consistent presence in the playoffs. The two teams never have met in the postseason.
Rivers said before the game that neither team has done anything to have a rivalry, but that he's OK with creating one in the pursuit of greatness.
Greatness may be out there, somewhere, for one of these teams. The rivalry is here. Now. Five weeks and one day until they meet again. That's a lot of time for intensity to crackle and buzz.
THE GOOD: Klay Thompson came out of his weeks-long funk, playing dedicated defense, hitting key shots and tying David Lee for team scoring honors with 23 points. Lee was solid, as he has been of late, with 23 and 13 rebounds. The Warriors won the battle of the glass, 49-38.
THE BAD: Curry hit a big 3-pointer late, but spent most of the game seeking and not finding his shooting rhythm, missing 12 of his 17 shots. There was an absence of defense in the early going, forcing Jackson to call a quick timeout. It worked.
THE TAKE: The Warriors are a team still searching for an identity other than mild-mannered guys who shoot really pretty 3-pointers. Victories like this one serve Jackson's agenda to more consistently see toughness. He wants an edge. He won't always get it, but he did in this game.