It is a rivalry.
When the Warriors and Clippers face off at Oracle Arena on Thursday, there will be playoff intensity -- on the floor and in the stands. There will be trash talk, a certain amount of chippiness, a palpable sense of enmity.
Unless you're Mark Jackson.
"Forgive me," the Warriors coach said Wednesday. "I was raised on Magic and Bird. Lakers and Celtics. Yankees and Red Sox. Real rivalries. So let's pump the brakes a little bit."
True, Warriors-Clippers hasn't reached that level. But that doesn't mean it isn't a rivalry.
This is a rivalry, and a good one. Even without Chris Paul -- the Clippers' star guard and chief rabble-rouser is injured -- the game Thursday night will feel like a rivalry.
That Jackson won't call it a rivalry -- and he's not alone among Warriors and Clippers -- could be another indicator of the dislike these teams share. Neither is willing to admit it cares that much about the other.
Warriors-Clippers hasn't yet produced a game that grandfathers will tell future generations. But the matchup has all the markings of a growing rivalry: Good teams. Popular players. A common goal. Geographic proximity. And, most important, drama that seems to build on itself at every meeting.
It started in November of 2012 when the Warriors won in L.A. and celebrated a little too much for the Clippers' liking. Paul said the Warriors acted as if "they won the Finals."
The next time the teams met, in Oakland, the Warriors won again. Stephen Curry hit a big 3-pointer and celebrated by galloping downcourt. The only thing that angered the Clippers more was the Golden State bench openly laughing when Blake Griffin took a shot that hit the side of the backboard.
The teams completed their season series in January -- the Warriors winning three of four -- but the ensuing 10-month hiatus hardly served as a cooling-off period. On the second night of the 2013-2014 season, the Warriors traveled to L.A., and the bad blood was in evidence before the teams even took the floor. A pregame Bible study, usually a joint venture, was broken in two at the Clippers' request. Once on the floor, the teams got in a scuffle, Andrew Bogut and DeAndre Jordan engaging in a shoving match.
There was another scuffle when the teams met again, on Christmas Day in Oakland -- two scuffles in fact. Draymond Green was ejected after an incident with Griffin. Griffin was ejected after an incident with Bogut. Then Bogut and Paul punctuated the Warriors' win with more pushing and shoving.
The NBA nation was buzzing about Clippers-Warriors. And now, we eagerly anticipate Round 3 on Thursday night in Oakland.
Waiting to see if the teams get together before the game and sing "Kumbaya." Waiting to see how the Warriors bench reacts when something goes well. Waiting to see what happens when Bogut or Matt Barnes applies a hard foul.
Even Jackson had to admit the entertainment value of the rivalry.
"It's not a rivalry," he said.
Well, the bad blood between the teams.
"We don't have blood."
Then the intense competition.
"OK. Thank you for the remix," Jackson said with a smile. "It makes it exciting. We embrace it. They embrace it. ... It's good for basketball. Certainly it's good for both teams."
Because it's a rivalry.
L.A. Clippers (33-15) at Warriors (27-19), 7:30 p.m. TNT
Clippers have increased
their lead over the Warriors. PAGE 4