LOS ANGELES – With the Los Angeles Clippers well on their way to routing the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, Warriors center Jermaine O'Neal and Clippers coach Doc Rivers began jawing at each other. Rivers had said something to an official, O'Neal didn't like whatever that something was and barked at Rivers. Rivers barked back, and within a few moments player and coach were both getting hit with technicals.
The incident – which came midway through the second quarter of the Clippers' 138-98 victory – was merely the latest chapter in what has fast become one of the NBA's most heated rivalries. Even in a 40-point blowout, it was clear the two teams don't care much for each other. And with the series now even at a game apiece and shifting to Oakland for Thursday's Game 3, the tension is as thick as ever.
"It's very intense right now," O'Neal said. "Everyone wants to win. Everybody is looking for that blood. This league is about trying to smell what the weakness is. I don't care if it's the scorekeeper – there are going to be scenarios where you are trying to find an edge and keep yourself going."
The Warriors were down 52-33 with 4:48 left in the second quarter when O'Neal was called for a foul on Clippers center DeAndre Jordan near the Clippers' bench. After Rivers had words with the referee about the foul, he and O'Neal began jawing.
"I kept telling him I loved him," Rivers joked. "I don't know what he was saying. It wasn't anything bad. Jermaine, I know him, he was talking and I told our guys just keep playing."
Said O'Neal: "Things were said and we moved on."
"We share a birthday," said Rivers, who coached O'Neal for a couple seasons in Boston. "Two Libras. Two stubborn fools."
As it turned out, that was about the most fight the Warriors showed all night. After losing the series' opener on Saturday, the Clippers quickly put Game 2 away behind 35 points from Blake Griffin. The bad blood between the teams, however, was nothing new.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson called a timeout during a blowout loss to the Clippers last season while staring at the opposing bench. Unlike the usual custom for NBA teams, the Clippers didn't share chapel with the Warriors during a Halloween game this season. In that same game, Jackson and Griffin bumped into each other on the sideline, and Jordan and Andrew Bogut had a shoving match.
In the Christmas game this season, Griffin and Warriors forward Draymond Green were ejected for their physical play. During the team's last regular-season meeting in Los Angeles, O'Neal met Griffin outside the Clippers' locker room and they exchanged words. Even during the Warriors' Game 1 win, Griffin tossed a cup of water on Warriors fan Will Meldman.
"You had the situation with Blake, and nothing was said after the water and stuff," O'Neal said.
In Monday's Game 2, Warriors guard Stephen Curry became so frustated over a lack of calls that he threw his mouthguard to the floor and was hit with a technical. In the fourth quarter, Warriors center Marreese Speights gave Clippers forward Glen Davis a forearm shiver, knocking him to the floor. The players squared up and were given technicals.
The Clippers responded by continuing to launch 3-pointers over the Warriors' heads, even though the game's verdict had long since been decided. Los Angeles took nine 3-pointers in the final quarter while frustrated Warriors guard Klay Thompson muttered on the bench.
"I wouldn't expect nothing else," Green said. "That's fine. It's a seven-game series. You don't quite do that and it is over. You got to pay for what you do."
The Warriors weren't happy with their performance in Game 2, but they return to Oracle Arena for the next two games after taking home-court advantage from the Clippers.
"We get an opportunity to go back to an arena that will really set a tone for home court," O'Neal said. "People talk about Seattle [Seahawks] fans and how loud they are. We need to put a meter inside of Oracle to see who has the loudest arena and stadium. I guarantee that our fans will contend to be the loudest fans of all of sports."
Clippers guard Chris Paul said forward Matt Barnes, who played for the Warriors in the postseason in 2008, has been warning his teammates about how loud Oracle Arena will be. Meldman, the water-soaked supporter from Game 1, could even help rile up his fellow Warriors fans.
"We don't expect any red in the crowd," Chris Paul said.