Warriors resume rivalry with Clippers
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers hope to take another step toward dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division when the California rivals meet Sunday night for the second time this season.
After having lost 14 of 16 head-to-head to the four-time defending division champs, the Clippers got the 2018-19 series off to a winning start with a 121-116 overtime victory in Los Angeles last month.
The Clippers (19-13) enter Sunday's rematch just 2 1/2 games behind the Warriors (22-11), who like their rivals will seeking to sweep a back-to-back that began with a win on Saturday.
Hours after the Clippers had dispatched of the Denver Nuggets 132-111 at home for their second straight win, the Warriors got back in the win column with a hard-fought, 120-116 home win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Clippers snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Warriors with a 125-106 road win last January.
Golden State has won the last four season series 3-1, 4-0, 4-0 and 3-1 en route to division titles over the second-place Clippers by 11, 20, 16 and 16 games.
The last time the Clippers managed to even split the season series, they played the Warriors to a 2-2 deadlock in 2014 en route to winning the Pacific title by six games.
The clubs wound up matched up in the first round of the Western playoffs that year, with the Clippers using home-court advantage in Game 7 to take the series 4-3.
Shortly thereafter, the Warriors fired Mark Jackson and hired Steve Kerr.
The Clippers had to travel in between their two weekend games but benefitted from their one-sided win over the Nuggets and an afternoon start.
The club had landed in Oakland before the Warriors finished holding off the Mavericks in a game that nearly got away and required a 48-minute energy exhaustion.
"It's a feel-good win," noted Clippers forward Tyrone Wallace, a former University of California star who gets a homecoming against the Warriors. "Everybody got to play, we shared the ball, everybody got touches, so it's a feel good for the team and a big win for us."
With the Clippers having lost star center DeAndre Jordan to free agency and the Warriors having allowed veteran big men Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee to escape to greener pastures, both clubs have employed smaller lineups this season.
With less resistance around the hoop, the clubs enjoyed high-percentage shooting games inside the 3-point arc in the first meeting.
The Warriors shot 46.8 percent overall and 50.8 percent on two-point shots, while the Clippers were even better in both categories, going for 47.3 percent overall and 55.1 percent on two-pointers.
Draymond Green and Danilo Gallinari, power forwards most of their careers, both put in big minutes in the game while helping with big man duties.
"We just don't have any centers," Kerr lamented to reporters Saturday night. "That means Draymond is going to play more center this year than ever before because we don't have the same depth that we've had in the past at that position. It's ironic because we used to talk about how many centers we had. One of these years we'll get it exactly right."
Updated December 22, 2018