The Pacific Division is looking like a two-horse race. Tonight, those horses don their armor and do battle. Expect a bloodbath of equine proportions.
Warriors (22-10) vs. Clippers(26-8)
Tip-off: 7:30PM PST
Where: Staples Center, LA
TV: CSN Bay Area | Radio: KNBR 680
Blog Buddy: Clips Nation
Standings Update, courtesy Warriors Phenom (results updated through 1/3/2013):
I'm not entirely comfortable with disregarding the Lakers as PacDiv contenders, but unless Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant get Orthokine treatment using the Holy Grail to centrifuge their blood, I just can't imagine their defense improving to the point where they are reliable victors.
But it wouldn't be life without a villain from Los Angeles. The Clippers have taken up that mantle. The unlikely hero in this saga is our Golden State Warriors -- no longer content to be a David looking up at another LA Goliath, is is a mano a mano battle for prominence.
Can you tell I'm pumped for this one?
I had the pleasure of witnessing the Warriors' Wednesday beatdown of the Clips first hand. Like any self-respecting (or is it self-loathing?) Warriors fan, I was worried they'd choke the game away even with a big lead and 3:30 mins to go. Once the game concluded, I looked back on the past 2.5 hours and realized: man, we kicked their butts.
The question now is, can we do it again?
Well dammit, yes we can! It won't be easy, and it will surely be a closer game than Wednesday regardless of the final outcome. But Mark Jackson had a great defensive game plan against the Clippers, keeping them from running effective pick and rolls and coaxing them into ineffective isolations. Stephen Curry, who totally deserves your All Star vote, went five spice alarm in the first half, and then parried their double team counter in the second half by getting the ball to David Lee, who, yeah, totally deserves your All Star vote. All of this is to say: if we can do it once, we can do it a second time. And, oh wait, actually a third time, since we also dropped them at the season's sunrise, back when a 22-10 January record could only have been predicted by the most psychotically optimistic among us.
Will the Clippers be emboldened by their "big" win over the Lakers? I hope so. I hope they fell for the hype, forgot about Wednesday's shellacking, think they just beat the team to beat, and aren't prepared for the beating this Warriors team can give them. I'm thrilled that it took a 41-minute game by player-coach Chris Paul to finish off the Lakers, and thrilled that Jamal Crawford might rest another game with a sore foot.
But the odds are that the Clippers remember Wednesday. They'll recall the much-publicized clowning of Blake Griffin by the Warriors' bench following his comical attempt at a three. They'll take a peek at the standings and see the Warriors sitting there menacingly. They'll watch some tape and see all the things they did wrong, all that we did right, and plan for a different outcome. And, although playing their fourth game in five nights, they'll play hard.
But I'm certain of this: our guys will too. They drew first and second blood. They're looking at the standings too, likely with a glimpse of greed in their eyes as has not been seen in Warriorland in ages. They'll watch the tape too, and they'll be ready. Because the Pacific Division throne doesn't have to reside in a villainous lair deep in the heart of Los Angeles. No, it's out there in the open, and right now it looks like there are only two worthy contenders to sit upon it.