PATTEN PENDING: CLIPPERS-WARRIORS WILL BE FIRST ROUND GEM

And we thought the last two postseasons of the Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan era were hotly contested.

After weeks of speculation and nearly two hours of uncertainty as they awaited tipoff in Portland prior to Wednesday night’s regular season finale, the Clippers learned around 7:35 p.m. PT that they were locked into playing the Golden State Warriors when the 2014 Playoffs begin Saturday.

It will be full of venom and animosity and the kind of basketball that may look like a repeat of 2012 and 2013 when the Clippers faced off with the Memphis Grizzlies, another team that drew L.A.’s ire, in the opening round of the postseason.

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But this could be different. It’s a rivalry that’s manifested over the last two seasons. It began with an early-season celebration in November 2012, a stare down months later and fisticuffs in three out of four games this regular season.

Eight games, five won by the Warriors, have provided as many lasting memories as any two-season series in the NBA since the lockout ended.

There was a 38-point game from Stephen Curry that was outdone by 42 points from Paul. There was Andrew Bogut and Jordan’s shoving match. There was Draymond Green’s elbow to Griffin’s throat and Bogut and Griffin getting tangled up minutes later on Christmas. There was a 35-point lead that was punctuated by three consecutive alley-oops from Paul to Jordan. There were Griffin’s three consecutive lobs on Halloween. And Golden State’s blowout win in January. And the Clippers’ comeback victory in March in the midst of their 11-game winning streak.

From Mark Jackson to Doc Rivers to Griffin to David Lee, talk of a true rivalry has always been tempered by the idea that the two franchises that reside just 370 miles apart had never met in the Playoffs. Calling regular season games that were dramatic and controversial “Playoff-like” had sufficed for two years.

All of that changes Saturday when the Clippers and Warriors tip off at 12:30 p.m. on the West Coast. The natural geographic rivalry, the head coaches who both played for the Clippers and were traded for one another, the Splash Brothers and Lob City.

It’s going to be something spectacular. It’s going to be something that even exceeds the grimy slugfests that characterized Clippers-Grizzlies. Simply, it’s going to be awesome.

Or as Jackson might say, “It’s going to be good, old-fashioned hard-nosed basketball.” And then some.

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