Los Angeles Clippers’ top 5 rivals of all time, ranked
For the most part of its history, the Los Angeles Clippers have perennially found themselves as bottom dwellers in the NBA. More often than not, they pick high in the draft lottery rather than playing in April and May. After four decades of mediocrity, the franchise turned a corner in the 2010’s and became a consistent playoff team and a dark horse title contender with the arrival of Chris Paul and the emergence of Blake Griffin. Now with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George at the helm, their chances of capturing their first ever championship is better than ever.
Though the Clippers have never reached the mountaintop, the Clippers had some fierce battles with some of the elites in the Western Conference, especially in the previous decade. Despite just beginning on their
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City and L.A. only faced each other once in the Western Conference playoffs, but it was a series surrounded with plenty of controversy.
In the second round of the 2014 playoffs, the Clippers had a chance to secure a 3-2 series lead and head to Game 6 in Los Angeles needing just one win to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Up by 7 with 49 seconds remaining, the Clippers blew the lead and wound up losing by 1 point. A couple of controversial calls, especially the out-of-bounds call near the end of the game, led to the Clippers demise. Understandably, Doc Rivers threw a fit during the post-game presser, saying how much the officials cost them the game due to the incorrect out-of-bounds call. With disheartened spirits, L.A. eventually lost the series in Game 6.
Despite facing each other just once in a playoff series, a Clippers-Thunder match-up in the regular season was always box office. With big names such as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin, seeing these two powerhouses face off became must-watch TV.
Fast-forward to five years later, the Clippers and Thunder orchestrated a blockbuster trade that brought Paul George to his hometown of L.A. The Clippers needed to give up some of their future assets, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the deal. Thunder fans are definitely happy to have a promising star in SGA to go along with their myriad of draft picks from the Clippers. With that wrinkle tucked in, perhaps these two teams will continue the rivalry they started in the mid-2010’s.
The Clippers and the Grizzlies faced in consecutive playoff series in 2012 and 2013. Despite the relatively short history, those were some of the fiercest battles the Clippers had in the playoffs.
L.A. bested Memphis in their first encounter. This classic series included one of the greatest come-from-behind efforts in postseason history. The Clippers found themselves trailing by 27 points in the third quarter and by 24 points with eight minutes to go in the game. But Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and co. did not give up and stormed back to take the Game 1 victory, 99-98. They eventually won the series in seven games and needed to beat the Grizzlies on the road in Game 7. The following season, the two teams squared off again in the first round, this time with Memphis coming out on top in six games.
The two series were hard-fought and certainly created animosity between the two franchises. In particular, Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph got into some physical battles down the paint. The two teams also had contrasting styles of play. The Clippers featured a high-flying, up-and-down the floor offense, while the Grizzlies incorporated their rough Grit-and-Grind basketball, which the Clippers did not appreciate.
Obviously, L.A. doesn’t have a lot of playoff history under its belt, so those two series against the Grizzlies are something that will stick together with Clippers fans for a long time.
The Houston Rockets and the L.A. Clippers only faced once in the playoffs in the previous decade. Nonetheless, their lone postseason showdown doesn’t undermine the fact that these two teams do not like each other.
Of course, who wouldn’t forget the post-game locker room scramble they had in 2018? This game marked Chris Paul’s first game back in L.A. since the Clippers traded him to the Rockets in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, draft picks, and others. Trevor Ariza and CP3 were some of the players who reportedly stormed to the Clippers locker room after the game after the former Clippers star reportedly led them towards a secret passage.
Right now, the Rockets and Clippers are two of the best teams in the West and may see each other down the line in the postseason.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors became one of L.A.’s fiercest rivals, especially through the middle of the 2010’s. Chris Paul and the Clippers bested the pre-dynasty Warriors in their first round series in 2014. Many would associate that series with the Donald Sterling controversy the surfaced in the middle of the heated battle. Despite the emotional roller-coaster ride, the Clippers defeated the Warriors in seven games.
The following years, Golden State emerged as a championship team, while the Clips struggled to break through the conference semi-finals barrier. The Warriors and Clippers had some great games in the regular season and there was definitely tension in the air whenever these teams squared off. Individually, Stephen Curry’s emergence as a superstar and taking claim of best point guard in the league from Chris Paul certainly fueled the rivalry.
The two never faced off in a playoff series after 2014, but many fans certainly wanted to see the showdown between them led by two Hall of Fame point guards. The Clippers never made it past the second round through this stretch, though they came close to setting a West Finals date with the Warriors in a couple of occasions. Golden State, of course, went on to five straight Finals.
Los Angeles Lakers
There is no doubt that the Los Angeles Lakers are the Clippers’ number 1 rival. Playing in the same city and under the same roof, there is definitely a ton of animosity between the two city rivals.
For the most part, Los Angeles has been a Lakers town. The Lakers have always been the premier franchise in Los Angeles, while the Clippers have always been the laughing stock in the league.
Over the past decade, however, the Clippers became a consistent playoff team, while the Lakers plummeted to the bottom of the league standings. Lakers fans also have a lot of disdain for the Clippers franchise as they feel like the Clippers should just move to another city. However, the Clippers want to make their mark in Los Angeles.
This 2019-20 season marks the first time that both the Clippers and Lakers are legitimate championship contenders. Certainly, as much as players from both sides deny it, the Lakers-Clippers rivalry is as heated as ever. The two heavyweight teams were set to go on a collision course in the Western Conference Finals this season. Hopefully, we, NBA fans, can still see that mega showdown come to fruition.
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