LOS ANGELES (AP) — As much as the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors don’t like each other, they’re a lot alike in some ways.
There’s an All-Star point guard on each side, they’re both young and athletic, and each franchise is trying to distance itself from an inglorious past that cast them as afterthoughts for most of their years in the NBA.
The dislike between the teams goes beyond the Southern California vs. Northern California sense of superiority. They’ve tangled while splitting their four games this season, most famously on Christmas, when Blake Griffin was elbowed by Warriors forward Draymond Green.
In March, Griffin and Warriors backup center Jermaine O’Neal squabbled in a Clippers victory and it carried over after the game.
“I don’t have Jermaine’s number so I don’t really talk to him,” Griffin said Friday. “I don’t know if there’s a lingering issue or not.”
With both teams having been down so long and now competing for a title, Clippers forward Matt Barnes said there’s going to be “some hostility and animosity and hatred.”
“It’ll be an entertaining series just because how the regular season went,” Warriors star Stephen Curry said. “You’ve got to be prepared for anything.”
Some of the Clippers, including Griffin and Barnes, got into a playoff mindset by watching “Bad Boys,” an ESPN documentary about the Detroit Pistons teams of the 1980s and `90s that premiered on Thursday.
Barnes said he wishes today’s players could be as physical as the Pistons. He joked that if he fouled as hard as Isiah Thomas did back in the day, he’d be tossed out of the NBA and need to find a new job.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson added some heat to the fire this week when he said Griffin flopped a lot in games. Griffin is averaging 24.1 points and shooting 53 percent.
“If he’s flopping, keep doing it because those numbers look awful good to me, so flop on,” first-year Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Blake’s kicking a lot of people’s butt and they need something to say about him.”
Here are five things to watch for as the best-of-seven series opens Saturday at Staples Center:
CURRY VS. PAUL: Curry is the best pure shooter in the NBA. Chris Paul is a wily veteran who can do it all, whether it’s scoring or getting the ball inside to the Clippers’ big men. Curry’s dead-aim will test Paul’s defense. “I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Curry said.
NO BOGUT: Warriors center Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely with a broken rib, leaving O’Neal to start in his place. The 35-year-old veteran averaged 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds when healthy this season. “I’ve been through a lot of battles in the playoff field and I know how intense it is and I have great experience in that,” O’Neal said. Defensively, they’ll need all five starters to block shots, take charges and grab rebounds. “We’ll be able to do some different things, be a little quicker and switch a lot more, but we’ll definitely miss him,” Curry said.
DEFENSE: Both teams’ gaudy offensive numbers make it easy to overlook defense. The Warriors and the Clippers each held opponents to about 44 percent shooting, among the top in the league.
TRASH TALK: Can Griffin keep his cool when he gets fouled hard? He racked up the maximum 16 technical fouls during the regular season. Paul drew his share of techs, too. “There’s a line that you don’t want to cross,” Rivers said. “For the most part we’ve been on the right side of it. You try to regulate it and figure out how far you can go with it. The key is allowing both teams to play.”
3-POINT SHOOTING: Both teams love to shoot the 3. Led by Curry and Thompson, the Warriors average 38 percent from long-range; the Clippers 35 percent. Los Angeles knows it has to limit Golden State’s offensive rebounds or else the Warriors will kick the ball out for a 3. “That’s one of the things they really kill teams with,” Griffin said. Clippers starting guard J.J. Redick is a threat from long-range, but he’s been bothered by a back injury and it’s uncertain how many minutes he can play effectively. Jamal Crawford, the Clippers’ 3-point shooter off the bench, is working to regain his rhythm after missing several games with a tendon injury.