(SportsNetwork.com) - If there are two bloodsport rivals in the Western Conference, it has to be the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, powers of the Pacific Division, who meet at the Staples Center Saturday afternoon in Game 1 of the quarterfinals.
There have been fistfights, elbows to throats, ejections, claims of "cowardly basketball," and old-fashioned physical play.
That was all just on Christmas night!
Actually, three of the four regular-season meetings in 2013-14 featured some sort of physical altercation.
"Not to hype it up at all, but there is no love lost between these two teams," Warriors forward David Lee said after a Golden State loss to the Clippers on March 12.
But, behind all of the silly pushing and shoving, lies a rivalry predicated on two teams that are both offensively proficient and defensively underrated.
The Clippers finished first in scoring this season, with the Warriors 10th. Golden State was also 10th in opponents' scoring and LA came in 14th in that category.
Los Angeles underwent significant changes in the offseason. Head coach Doc Rivers was acquired from the Boston Celtics for a first-round pick. He runs the basketball operations and brought in J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Danny Granger and Glen Davis.
But the Clippers are run by Rivers' newest incarnation of the Big Three.
Blake Griffin will most likely finish third in MVP voting behind Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Miami's LeBron James. Guard Chris Paul might have come in third had he not missed significant time with a shoulder injury. And DeAndre Jordan led the NBA in rebounding and finished third in blocked shots.
It all translated into a franchise-record 57 wins.
The Warriors also brought in a new, impactful face in the form of defensive specialist Andre Iguodala.
However, the Warriors are built on their backcourt of Klay Thompson and especially Steph Curry. The two went 484-for-1,150 from long distance for 42 percent. Curry improved dramatically as a facilitator, averaging 8.5 assists per game, which ranked fifth in the NBA. He made his first All-Star team and is among the game's elite.
Head coach Mark Jackson tried to infuse a defensive mindset into the group. It worked for the most part, but problem is, their top enforcer, starting center Andrew Bogut, is out indefinitely with a broken rib. He was at the heart of most of the problems between the two teams.
And this is a huge series for Jackson. Reports indicate his job might be in jeopardy if the Warriors lose. Allegations are he and owner Joe Lacob are at odds and, despite leading Golden State to a first-round upset of the Denver Nuggets last season, Jackson might be on the unemployment line if the Warriors lose.
The two teams don't like each other as Lee pointed out, and the series should be physical. Keeping out of the skirmishes could be an issue for the Clippers, who lost in the first round last season, despite having home-court advantage over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"Like we've said all season long, it's about us," Paul said. "It's not about them. We have to play our game and do what we're supposed to do and we'll be just fine. We have to realize that each game takes on its own personality. It's one win at a time."
The two sides split four meetings this season with the home team prevailing each time. The Warriors have dropped four of their last five as the visitor in this series.