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OAKLAND – If there is one foe absolutely guaranteed to ignite the competitive fires of a Warriors team that tends to rise and fall on a whim, it's the Clippers, who come to Oakland on Thursday night.
The Clippers are the perfect tonic for the Warriors, still raw from their latest tepid performance, an 88-85 loss to the Wizards on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.
The reason for Warriors-Clippers tension is, essentially, that each is striving to reach a level where there can be only one chair.
"In this league, when you're competing, teams getting after it and you're jockeying for playoff position in the same division, it makes it exciting," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said after practice Tuesday. "We embrace it. They embrace it.
"It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be challenging. It's good for basketball and, certainly, it's good for both teams."
The Warriors and Clippers represent California's two largest metropolitan areas, roughly 350 miles apart. Both play within the NBA's Pacific Division. Both are committed to shedding inglorious histories, and their rises are practically parallel.
And, for what it's worth – and you can bet it's worth something – both head coaches are former point guards who competed against each other in the league.
"Whenever we play against each other that intensity kicks in," point guard Stephen Curry said. "We've seen them four times a year. We know them very well. They're a good basketball team."
When the teams last met, on Christmas night at Oracle, there were two ejections (Blake Griffin of the Clippers, Draymond Green of the Warriors), multiple flagrant fouls and some squaring off after the final buzzer of a 105-103 Warriors win.
In the locker room afterward, Griffin accused to Warriors of being "cowardly."
Before that, there was drama when the teams met in Los Angeles on Halloween. The Clippers, who won that game, opted not to share pregame chapel service – the NBA typically provides for a gathering of Christians from both sides – with the Warriors.
There was, too, the action of last season, when as the Warriors won three of the four games, each team thought the other celebrated itself too much.
It is not the NBA newest rival. Not by traditional standards, and not by the standards of a self-described old-school competitor like Jackson, who believes rivalries run deeper and longer and usually with higher stakes. Think Lakers-Celtics in the 1980s or Bulls-Pistons in the '90s. Or, for that matter, something more familiar to the Bay Area crowd: 49ers-Seahawks.
"Teams that year in and year out, are good," Jackson said in defining the term rivalry. "Year in and year out, they battle. They've been relevant for a while. That's what it takes, and I don't think either one us . . . obviously the body of work says that we're not there yet, neither one of us.
"We're both headed in the right direction. We've both done some things we've got to be very pleased with and proud of recently. But there's still a ways to go for both of us."
No doubt, though, the sight of the Clippers triggers a certain, um, enthusiasm among the Warriors. So it's safe to presume fans, whether watching on TV or at Oracle, will get their money's worth in entertainment.