OAKLAND, Calif.--Mark Jackson and Doc Rivers insist that the Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers don't really have a rivalry because neither franchise has accomplished anything special yet.
But the players clearly don't buy into their coaches' dialogue, and their games sure feel special. After an offensive free-for-all in their first meeting in October, Wednesday night's Christmas meeting was a tight, edgy, physical affair the Warriors ultimately won 105-103.
Klay Thompson blocked a Chris Paul layup try with one second left and then Jamal Crawford's 3-point shot over the outstretched hand of Thompson came up short as the buzzer sounded.
As if that wasn't enough, there was a mild skirmish in front of the Warriors' bench after the game. Clearly, these teams don't seem to like each other much and that was reinforced once again at the end of the third quarter, when the Warriors' Draymond Green got into a shouting match after Green elbowed Clippers star Blake Griffin.
Green drew a flagrant foul-2 and was ejected when officials reviewed the film, and Griffin was also assessed a technical. But that proved to be critical early in the fourth, when Griffin and Warriors center Andrew Bogut locked up underneath the Clippers' basket, touching off a mild skirmish in which Bogut received a flagrant foul-1 but Griffin picked up his second technical and was ejected with 10:42 left in the game.
The score was tied 78-all at that point, but the Warriors still couldn't shake the Clippers. The two teams exchanged the lead seven times in the fourth quarter and the score was tied eight different times over the final.
Harrison Barnes hit two free throws with 1:09 left to give the Warriors a 105-103 lead, and the Clippers missed on three straight possessions, Darren Collison missing a 3-point try from the corner then Paul doing the unthinkable -- missing a pair of layups with in the final minute and then having his final attempt blocked.
David Lee and Thompson led the Warriors with 23 points apiece while Paul had 26 points assists for the Clippers, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.
The Warriors won their third straight game for the first time in more than a month.
The Warriors did not lead in the entire first half, but after a late first-half surge, jumped in front 56-55 on an offensive tip-in by Bogut 57 seconds into the third quarter.
Golden State expanded that lead to as many as six, 65-59, when Andre Iguodala canned a 3-pointer with 7:15 left in the period. But Los Angeles answered with a long 3-pointer from Paul well beyond the top of the key, and Griffin added a driving layup to get back within one, 65-64, then took a 69-67 lead with 4:16 to go on a shot underneath by DeAndre Jordan.
It was back and forth the rest of the period, with the Clippers assuming a 77-74 lead heading into the break on a pair of Willie Green free throws with 4.2 seconds left following a Harrison Barnes three-point play for Golden State. At the end of the period, Griffin and Draymond Green exchanged heated words, setting up the finish.
The Warriors got off to a rough start, missing their first six shots and falling behind 8-0. Griffin got things started for L.A. with three quick buckets and a lob to Jordan for a dunk.
The Clippers shot 57.7 percent in the opening quarter to the Warriors' 32.1 percent and opened a 30-22 lead, expanding that to as many as 13 early in the quarter, 35-22, on a jump hook by former Warrior Antawn Jamison.
Golden State finally found its offensive rhythm and staged a 16-6 run to finish the half, Lee overcoming a 1 for 7 start to pour in three buckets during the run, including a dunk with one second left on a pass from Curry.
Griffin had a terrific first half for the Clippers, scoring 13 points with eight rebounds.
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