JORDAN: CLIPPERS VS. WARRIORS ‘JUST TWO TEAMS TRYING TO GET A WIN’
Oracle Arena will be overflowing with vitriol Thursday night.
It will be the same ocean of boos and hatred and volume that’s existed in the previous three trips to the Bay Area for the Clippers. Whiteout or blue out or bobblehead night or however it’s dubbed, Golden State fans will be charged up.
They call it “Warriors ground” and a splash page on the team’s official website has termed Thursday’s game a “Battle for the Pacific,” a last chance to see the reigning division champions up close and personal during the regular season.
The Warriors (27-19), losers of six of their last nine games, are six wins behind the Clippers (33-15) and five total games back in the standings. The season series is tied at one game apiece after the Clippers lost by POINTS in Oakland in the NBA’s Christmas finale. It’s the third time in a row the teams have played on national television and second time it’s been a part of a TNT exclusive.
But while Warriors versus Clippers has turned into must-see television, it has not turned into a must-win game for the Clippers.
“It’s just two teams trying to get a win,” DeAndre Jordan said. “That’s all.”
Asked if the media makes too much out of so-called rivalry games, Jordan, who had 13 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots in the previous meeting with Golden State, elaborated.
“You guys make a big deal out of us playing the Lakers, Memphis, Golden State, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “[The Warriors] are just a Western Conference team that we’re trying to beat and that’s it. Those are three teams that it definitely gets a little chippy and I like that kind of basketball, so that’s fine.”
Chippy would be one way to describe the way games between the two teams have unfolded since the start of last season. There was the game in November 2012 when the Warriors won 114-110 and were accused of overly celebrating a victory in the season’s first week. There was the “whiteout” last January when Golden State jumped on the Clippers early and rode their double-digit lead to a runaway victory. There was the Clippers’ response three days later when they plastered the Warriors by 26 and left Warriors head coach Mark Jackson staring at the Clippers’ bench after Jordan’s third consecutive alley-oop gave the Clippers a 39-point lead in the third quarter.
This year, there was Jackson accusing Blake Griffin of purposefully stepping on his shoes during an inbounds play on Halloween, and, of course, Griffin’s ejection on Christmas that was later rescinded by the league. All of that leads into Thursday, a game that has been downplayed by the Clippers so far.
“We’re coming to play,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “When stuff happens, it happens, and we have to just play through it; but that’s going to happen in the Playoffs. You can’t go in waiting for stuff to happen; you’ve got to go into the game ready to play basketball, maybe a hockey game will break out.”
Jared Dudley added: “It’s a team that you can see in the Playoffs, so you want them thinking that you’re better than them. For us, it’s trying to get a big road win on a back-to-back in a national television game to make a statement.”
From the Clippers’ perspective, the statement seems much more about closing out what they’re calling a nine-game road trip with a win within their division than a rivalry grudge match or battle for anything.
That doesn’t take away from how competitive it could be, though.
“As a competitor you can try to ignore it but it’s still in the back of your mind,” Darren Collison said. “Those guys they beat us, a lot happened during that game. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere. It’s something that we all look forward to playing in. We’re playing some of our best basketball and I couldn’t be more excited to go there a play a game.”