Programming note: Kings-Warriors coverage tips off Saturday night at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)
LOS ANGELES – With tempers flaring, bodies tumbling and probably, upon close inspection, the spilling of blood, the Warriors on Thursday received stone-cold notice of what lies ahead.
It's them and the Clippers fighting for Pacific Division supremacy, now and for the immediate future, with everyone else well to the rear, pleading to be noticed.
It's Doc Rivers, a former NBA point guard and veteran coach in now Los Angeles, against Mark Jackson, a former NBA point guard and relative upstart on the bench representing the Warriors.
And it's the established All-Star point guard, Chris Paul, wearing Clippers colors, trying to hold off the hard charge of Warriors point guard Stephen Curry.
"Playoff basketball every single time we play them,'' Curry said.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Paul bests Curry as Warriors lose in L.A.]
That was the atmosphere Thursday at Staples Center as Los Angeles posted a 126-115 win. Paul was fearless and relentless. Curry was aggressive and accurate with his shot. Warriors center Andrew Bogut and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan exchanged shoves and baleful stares. At one point, Clippers star Blake Griffin and Jackson shared an impolite exchange.
"They're a top team in the West, and we've got to battle with them,'' Griffin said. "Not every game you're going to come out and be friends with everybody, and be talking and having fun. Sometimes it's going to get a little gritty.''
With the long-dominant Lakers aging and reeling, a new power structure is coming to the division, and the winner will be the team that best survives the kind of terrain with which neither is wholly familiar.
The Warriors and Clippers, to be frank, spent most of the past 25 years stinking up their respective arenas. That clearly has changed, and the result is pair of teams without strong alpha credentials trying to establish them.
Rivers went so far as to say the Warriors could win not just the Pacific Division but also the Western Conference.
"This is the team that we have to catch, in my opinion,'' he said of the Warriors.
After which Jackson was quick to point out which team on the division last season.
The Warriors returned home Friday with a clear vision of what's ahead. Only two games into this season, they can identify their toughest competition. It's a team they beat three of four times last year.
The Clippers won Round 1, doing so rather convincingly.
"Give them credit,'' Jackson said. "We'll face them again down the road. But give them credit.''
Any credit was earned. And with so much at stake, that "road'' won't get any easier. It never does when the prize is one worth having.
THE GOOD: Curry finding his shot, Andre Iguodala playing extended minutes at the point and responding with 11 assists and two turnovers.
THE BAD: Curry finishing with an astonishing 11 turnovers (to nine assists), the bench being outscored 25-14 and being outrebounded 44-33.
"I'm not concerned about his shots,'' Jackson said of Curry. "He's got to do a better job taking care of the basketball, and he'll be the first to tell you that."
THE FUTURE: The Sacramento Kings, another opponent sure to stir emotions, visit Oracle Arena on Saturday night.