There was no gift giving by NBA officials during the Christmas Day showdown between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, unless technical fouls and ejections count as presents. However, the NBA would later admit that the referees were too generous with handing out them out.
The first ejection occurred just as the third quarter came to a close when the Warriors’ Draymond Green was called for a flagrant foul two for a forearm shot to Clippers forward Blake Griffin. The initial call was a double technical, but upon further examination by the officials, the call was upgraded for Green, leading to his automatic departure from the game.
Then at the 10:43 mark of the fourth quarter, Griffin and Warriors center Andrew Bogut had to be separated after they were entangled while battling for rebounding position. Tagged with his second technical foul, Griffin had to leave for the rest of a game that was up for grabs at a 78-78 standstill.
“To be honest, I thought I got two technicals for nothing,” said Griffin, who finished the night with 20 points and 14 rebounds. “It all boils down to they (referees) fell for it. I think it's cowardly basketball.”
Less than 24 hours later, the NBA would admit that the double technical foul call was made in error and Griffin should not have been ejected. Green was also fined $15,000 for not leaving the court in a timely manner following the ejection.
With one second left and Los Angeles down by two, the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford fell short of winning the game after a 3-pointer fell short of hitting its mark. The Clippers lost an earlier 13-point advantage just as quickly as they lost their composure in the second half.
“Honestly, I thought we were kicking their butt and they went to something else,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “But that's fine. We have to have better composure and just keep playing.”
Griffin downplayed the idea that a feud exists between his team and the Golden State Warriors prior to their Christmas Day showdown, saying it was a mere fabrication. However, after a hard-fought 105-103 Warriors victory at Oracle Arena, the chippiness displayed was more than enough proof that a rivalry is alive and well.
The Clippers and Warriors were both nascent playoff teams last season—two exciting contenders fueled by young stars like Griffin, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Now the two are jockeying for position in a competitive Western Conference landscape, leading to a rivalry that is maturing quicker than its young stars.
This sets the stage for two future matchups on January 30 in Oakland and March 12 in Los Angeles. Depending on what the playoff picture looks like at the end of the 2013-14 regular season, basketball fans could be in for a treat if the Clippers and Warriors meet with higher stakes involved.