OAKLAND — If you have to play an NBA game on Christmas, it might as well be one that lights up the sky, and there's no mistaking the marquee power of the Los Angeles Clippers sleighing into town to face the Warriors at Oracle Arena.
It's a nationally televised holiday treat on so many levels. Stephen Curry going toe-to-toe with Chris Paul. David Lee doing battle inside with Blake Griffin. Andrew Bogut and DeAndre Jordan banging for boards. Mark Jackson matching strategy with an old playing adversary, Doc Rivers.
At the pace and elevation these two teams like to play, it's easily the most attractive package under the NBA tree.
"It's Christmas Day, we know how big of a deal that is and how many eyeballs will be watching TVs for all five games going on," said Curry. "So we want to play well, and it should be a fun battle."
It's a game that has potential short- and long-term implications for both teams, but particularly the Warriors. They're looking to sustain a two-game mini-roll and win three in a row for the first time in more a month. The Clippers, meanwhile, are in full roll mode — they've won five straight and seven of eight, and they've put four games of distance between themselves and Golden State in the Pacific Division.
The Warriors know they could right a lot of the wrongs of their so-so 16-13 start with a victory. They're coming off just their third triumph against a Western Conference team with a winning record — on the road in Denver, no less. A victory against Paul and Co., then another against Phoenix on Friday night, would tighten things up and serve as a nice springboard for the seven-game trip that will take Golden State into the new year.
Jackson acknowledged this is a crucial stretch for the Warriors to up the ante on their stuttering start. Andre Iguodala is healthy again and starting to play at his pre-injury level, and not coincidentally, the Warriors have become tougher to score against.
"We are establishing a rhythm, and we're starting to defend like we're capable of defending," he said. "This is a fine time to get right."
Indeed, they'll have to be right to beat the 20-9 Clippers, but putting Curry in the prime-time spotlight against Paul is a nice start. Their first meeting of the season Oct. 31 in L.A. was epic — Paul scored 42 points with 15 assists and six steals while Curry poured in 38 (9 for 14 on 3-pointers) with nine assists but also 11 turnovers. The Clippers won 126-115, but it was a tighter game than the final score.
While he denied he intentionally raises the level of his play in "spectacle" games, particularly against Paul, Curry understands the stakes.
"For sure, you know how great of a player CP is and his resume up to this point," Curry said. "Every team he's gone to has been a winning team, so you know if you don't show up, you're going to get exposed. You have to make him work on the defensive end and the offensive end, so it should be a tough battle. He can make winning plays any given possession, so you have to be on your game."
Curry hasn't been so bad of late, either. In 12 December games, he's averaging 26.9 points and 9.9 assists.