In the final NBA Christmas Day game on Wednesday, the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers engaged in all-out war, with the Warriors eventually prevailing, 105-103. But the real story of the game was the budding rivalry that the two Pacific Division teams are forming.
In a game that was close throughout, things took a nasty turn in the fourth quarters. Clippers star Blake Griffin ended up getting ejected with his second technical foul with 10:43 remaining when he got tangled up with Warriors center Andrew Bogut.
Griffin earned his first technical in the third quarter after he was flagged for jawing with Draymond Green. Green was ejected for throwing an elbow at Griffin on the play, while Griffin was assessed a technical after officials reviewed the play.
In the fourth quarter, Griffin was attempting to untangle himself from Bogut in the paint. Bogut was assessed a flagrant foul while Griffin was again tagged with a technical. It was clear to Griffin that the Warriors intentionally looked to remove him from the game.
"If you look at it, I didn't do anything, and I got thrown out of the game," Griffin said. "It all boils down to they (the referees) fell for it. To me, that's cowardly. That's cowardly basketball.
"Instead of just playing straight up and playing a game, it got into something more than that, and it's unfortunate because you want to play a team head-to-head. You don't want to start playing other games and playing cowardly basketball."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was none too pleased with what he witnessed as well, saying that it certainly appeared as if the Warriors had a clear intention.
''I don't know if they were but it sure looked like it. I can't accuse them of that but it looked like it. I'm not sure but that's what it looked like,'' Rivers said. ''It's whatever you have to do to win, I guess.''
The Clippers and Warriors are two teams that have just recently started having success on the court after years of ineptitude. While they’re both trending in the right direction, neither are willing to admit that their rivalry is anything more than two teams battling their way to the top.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson wasn’t about to admit anything in his post-game comments when asked about the rivalry becoming more heated.
'We like them. Merry Christmas,'' Jackson said jokingly. ''It's just physical basketball, so we don't get caught up in that. ... It's good, old-fashioned basketball between two teams that are playing for something.''
They both may be playing for something, but it was obvious to just about everyone in attendance at Oracle Arena that these two teams simply don’t like each other.
At the end of the game, security personnel was needed to break up the two sides after they exchanged angry words in the tunnel leading to the Clippers’ locker room.
The next matchup between the Pacific Division rivals will occur on Jan. 30, and it’s likely that the events of Christmas Day won’t be forgotten. Both the Warriors and Clippers are fighting for playoff position, and Golden State will be looking to continue its dominance over the Clippers, having won the season series between the two teams each year since the 2005-2006 season.
Griffin may well have been targeted by the Warriors, but it’s also important for him to not let his emotions get the best of him in certain situations. Rising above the fray and leading his team by example will serve the Clippers best in the long run.
There’s no question the Clippers and Warriors have a budding rivalry working, and the testy exchange between the two teams on Wednesday served notice that future matchups will be exciting to watch. But it’s also incumbent upon players like Griffin to simply turn the other cheek.