- The Warriors and Clippers produced some of the best matchups of the calendar year.
When the Clippers and Warriors scrap, lately, they haven't disappointed. The two clubs met five times during the 2018 calendar year (three times during the previous season, twice during the current campaign). Golden State is 3–2 in those meetings, a record closer than several marks it owns against other Western Conference competition.
During Saturday night’s game, Los Angeles (19–14, 6th in Western Conference) appeared to give Golden State (23–11, 2nd in Western Conference) everything it had. Tobias Harris scored 32 points and went 6-for-7 from 3-point range. Danilo Gallinari dropped 25, going 5-for-5 from three. The Clippers set a league record, shooting an unconscious 13-of-16 (81.3%) from beyond the arc in the first half. They finished 18-of-23 (78.3%) and held the Warriors to 14-for-40 (35%) from deep.
But it didn’t matter. Steph Curry scored 42, including a game-winning layup with 0.5 left. Kevin Durant added 35. The Warriors blitzed Los Angeles in the third quarter (Golden State outscored the Clippers 36–23), then outlasted them in fourth to win 129–127.
Whether or not the Warriors and Clippers have adequately fulfilled the definition of a rivalry is perhaps up to debate. During the Doc Rivers's first seasons in Los Angeles, the teams balked at suggestions of the franchises having a rivalry, even if the on-court vitriol was apparent.
Over the past 12 months, the matchup has delivered. When the Clippers dealt Blake Griffin to the Pistons last year, many assumed that L.A. would no longer have enough to hang with the Warriors aside from Pat Beverley’s pesky trash talk. But in Beverley and Avery Bradley, Los Angeles has had a pair of hounding perimeter defenders capable of occasionally slowing Curry and Klay Thompson down. Lou Williams has offered a punch off the bench. Gallinari and Harris have anchored the starting unit.
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The first time Golden State and Los Angeles played this season, Curry wasn’t a part of the matchup and the Clippers pulled off a 121–116 overtime win. For much of Sunday night, it looked as though L.A.’s scorching-hot shooting stretch wasn’t going to cease. But then the inevitable happened: Curry went nuclear and Durant piled on. Golden State found its way, and in the final moment, the best player on the floor showed up.
Eighteen days after the calendar flips to 2019, the Clippers and Warriors will square off again. Golden State likely won’t be at full strength yet—All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins is still on the mend from a ruptured Achilles. But perhaps that game will make for a show comparable to the theatre the two teams put on throughout the past year.