The Clippers and the Warriors have a recent history of not liking each other very much, and that alone should make for a compelling night cap to the NBA’s five-game slate of Christmas Day action.
But it’s also an opportunity, especially for the Clippers, to measure themselves against what’s been the best team in the Western Conference (and perhaps the entire league) to this point of the season.
Both teams come into this one having stumbled in their most recent contests. Golden State got blown out by a Lakers team playing without Kobe Bryant, while L.A. has lost three of four, including the last two on a rough road back-to-back in San Antonio and Atlanta.
If there’s good news for the Clippers, it’s that they’ll face the Warriors and their league-leading defense without their anchor inside. Andrew Bogut has missed the last seven games with a knee issue, one that’s required two separate platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments. He’ll be out for this one, but Golden State is getting some offensive help back in the form of David Lee, who has returned the last two games after missing all but part of a single contest this season with a hamstring injury.
There’s been plenty of animosity between these two teams over the past year, including during last season’s Christmas matchup where Blake Griffin was ejected after receiving an elbow to the face from Draymond Green, and then being seized by Bogut in the fray that followed. Griffin called the tactics “cowardly” afterward, and there was more extracurricular activity during a first round playoff series between the two teams that went the full seven games.
With Bogut out of this one and not available to engage with Griffin in a physical battle for low post position, all of that may subside just a bit. The focus will then be on the actual basketball, where a high-scoring contest should ensue between two of the league’s top five offensive units.
This game will be won or lost by the Clippers on the defensive end of the floor. A lack of a consistent wing defender has been the team’s biggest issue this season, but Golden State is at its best when the guards are doing the damage. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson may be the league’s best starting backcourt, but L.A. has the firepower to match with Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford all capable of having big games of their own.
At this point in the season, this is a much bigger game for the Clippers. Playing at home against the team at the top of the standings is a chance to make a statement, but beating this high-powered Warriors team — even without its best interior defender — will be no small task.