VIDEO: Warriors notch a chippy Christmas Day victory over the Clippers
OAKLAND – Let’s see. Andrew Bogut and DeAndre Jordan scuffled when the Warriors and Clippers met Halloween night in Southern California, Bogut tried to frustrate Blake Griffin on Christmas night in Northern California and played combatant as Griffin was ejected early in the fourth quarter, and Bogut was nearly in an altercation after the buzzer Wednesday that included getting shoved in the back by Matt Barnes before the teams left the court.
Just maybe there is a pattern.
Bogut being in the middle of conflict is part coincidence — he didn’t do anything at the end to deserve the parting gift from Barnes — but also surely part plan. He wanted to wear on Griffin just as he would be willing to instigate his own teammates in practice if he felt the Warriors needed to rumble to find their inner fight. He will create havoc to generate stability.
Which brings him to Christmas at Oracle Arena. The Clippers went up by 13 points in the first quarter, but the chippy play heats up and the lead is down to two at halftime. It’s 78-78 with 10:43 left in the fourth. Griffin and Bogut got tangled. Both were called for technicals — the second for Griffin, an ejection.
Golden State wins 105-103.
“Honestly,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “I thought we were kicking their butts, and they went to something else, to be honest.”
Rivers and his Warriors counterpart, Mark Jackson, both got questions from the media before the game after the so-called growing rivalry, and both brushed off the notion. There had been the rising temperatures of an October game, that’s all. Jackson grew up on the New York City playgrounds and participated in actual heated moments in the postseason. The coaches know real tension. This wasn’t that.
When the heat began to rise in the second meeting of the season, though, whether the neighborhood turf war was a rivalry or not, it was clearly something. Two games into the season series and two more to go — Jan. 30 at Oracle and March 12 at Staples Center — there is clearly a lot of not getting along to try to pass it off as just another opponent.
“We like them,” Jackson said after. “Merry Christmas.”
Or something like that.
“The little thing between me and Blake, I don’t think he should have been thrown out,” Bogut said. “Just get up and brush it off and go down to the other end, in my opinion. That kind of stuff doesn’t bother me too much.
“It’s not like I go home and pencil the Clippers in and say, ‘I’m going to be physical and try to get a technical foul and try to give the league money.’ That’s just the way the game went. He was being physical, I was being physical, and we both didn’t take a step back and that’s how it should be. I think it’s good spectacle for you guys (the media) and the fans.”
For all the attention that goes to his defense, rebounding and passing, demanding intensity through toughness is one of the primary contributions Bogut provides that’s largely unseen in public.
Early in his career here, after he arrived via a trade with Milwaukee and as he was healing from a lengthy ankle injury, he said he wouldn’t hesitate to start a fight in practice if he felt teammates needed to be, um, called out. He would be insistent and unforgiving in the way a lot of rosters need to be held accountable.
It just hasn’t been very necessary with these Warriors, a mature group that last season consistently played with energy, even as they relied heavily on three rookies who did not flinch as the pressure grew throughout 2012-13. This season, though, has been more of an emotional struggle. That focus from last season is lacking as Golden State played with a target on its back for the first time and too often failed to meet the burden during what has improved to a 17-13 start.
There have been times in practice where fights seemed possible — “We’ve been close,” Bogut said, “we’ve gone at it. Guys are talking smack and it gets pretty testy” — but the Warriors have yet to cross that line with punches thrown, he said. It doesn’t seem necessary with this team that will play hard without the internal conflict, however temporary.
But Wednesday against the Clippers, it was a different story.
“Blake Griffin was hot and I tried to do everything in my power to try and frustrate him and stop him,” Bogut said. “I didn’t want him to get thrown out. I just tried to make life tough for him, and that’s the way it worked out. I’m going to give extra-effort plays and dive on the floor and take charges, and I think guys see that. I think without words, you see a guy doing that, and I think it can give us a spark.”
It did on Christmas night, among other times, with Griffin in the locker room down the stretch and the Warriors adding another in the win column. That’s the real pattern Bogut is trying to establish.
VIDEO: Blake Griffin talks about his ejection vs. the Warriors