GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (3-2)
at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (4-0)
Tip-off: Monday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: NA, Total: NA
Will the intensity of this California rivalry live on without the involvement of Chris Paul?
By certain metrics, Clippers vs. Warriors has been the best rivalry in the NBA in recent years. No matchup brought together more total pettiness on a single court than this one, and few teams hate each other as much as these two have. Of course, there's the old line about it not being a rivalry if one team always wins, and that has certainly been the case here: The Clippers have consistently been outclassed by the Warriors over the past several seasons. The game figures to have a different tone this year, however, as star Clippers PG Chris Paul is now a Houston Rocket. Paul is an all-time antagonist and his presence will be missed, but a rejuvenated Blake Griffin will likely be looking to take it to Draymond Green. Plus, CP3 replacement Patrick Beverley may be one of the few players in the league who is actually better at getting under opponents' skin than Paul is.
Blake Griffin looks like a new man. His past few seasons have been defined by injury, controversy or both, but he appears to have a renewed comfort as the unquestioned leader of this Clippers squad. He put up big stat lines in Los Angeles's first three winsóall blowoutsóbut really called the league to attention with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists against Portland. He knocked down a three at the buzzer to win the game by a 104-103 score. It was a fitting way for Griffin to grab the victory, as his season thus far has been defined by a willingness to shoot from beyond the three-point line, and success in doing so. Beyond Griffin, the team's leading scorers have been new acquisitions. Beverley and SG Lou Williams, both sent over in the Paul trade, are effective from the perimeter, and Beverley makes life hell for opposing PGs. Williams figures to be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate once again. SF Danilo Gallinari has shot poorly, but figures to see his scoring numbers increase as he finds a rhythm. Through four games, C DeAndre Jordan was averaging a monstrous 18.3 RPG. After a rough start to the year, PG Austin Rivers scored 16 points in both games three and four.
Warriors haters everywhere rejoiced when the Dubs fell to 1-2 with a loss to Memphis, a game in which Steph Curry and Kevin Durant were ejected in the final moments. They should savor it, because there's a good chance, as always, that Golden State goes a long time without losing again. They rebounded strongly, beating Dallas by 30 points two nights later (a win that rookie PF Jordan Bell punctuated with an alley oop to himself). Curry and Durant scored 29 and 25 points in that game, each needing only 15 shots to get to their respective totals. Golden State got a much closer contest in their next one, going down to the wire in a 117-112 win over Toronto. Curry and Durant scored 30 and 29, respectively, each taking 20 shots and hitting key three-pointers in the fourth quarter. SG Klay Thompson scored over 20 points in each of those games, as well. He, along with PF Draymond Green, are elite defenders, but the Warriors D looked rusty in its early games this year. Draymond is already up to his old tricks, engaging in trash talk with Dallas rookie Dennis Smith Jr. Newly added SG Nick Young is the eighth man in the rotation, but takes the most shots outside of the Big Four.