The last Western Conference team to beat the Warriors in an NBA playoff series was the same that thought it, not Golden State, was about to dominate the conference for years to come.
The Lob City Los Angeles Clippers took down a young Warriors crew over seven games in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Chris Paul had 22 points and 14 assists in Game 7. Blake Griffin added 24 points, five rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks. DeAndre Jordan, who is on his sixth team since he last played for the Clippers in 2018, had 15 points and 18 rebounds.
J.J. Redick added 20 points, Matt Barnes had 13 and Jamal Crawford dropped 22 off the bench. All three now are retired.
Then, Steve Kerr showed up and the Warriors haven't lost a playoff series to a team out West ever since. Though the Warriors did face the Clippers in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, beating them in six games, one team's path took a road to rings and the other's had far more twists, turns and dead ends than expected.
Storylines need their sunlight and debate is as essential as water for sports fans. This past offseason, a Warriors-Clippers argument was brought back to life. Questions immediately arose regarding the Warriors' chances to repeat. Meanwhile, the Clippers became the darlings of the NBA -- at least on paper.
Prior to the start of the 2022-23 NBA season, the Warriors' over-under for wins, per PointsBet, was 52.5 -- the same number as the Clippers. One team won their fourth title in the last eight seasons. The other finished eighth in the West and dropped both of its games in the play-in tournament.
Nov. 23 was supposed to be a day to circle for Warriors fans, Clippers fans and anybody who gives a damn about basketball. The first meeting between these former rivals, however, doesn't exactly live up to expectations.
Golden State Warriors
Let's start with the Clippers.
Kawhi Leonard's healthy return was the main reason everyone came into the season so high on the Clippers. Leonard missed all of last season with a torn ACL. His first two seasons in Southern California saw him average 26.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game, all while missing an average of 27.5 games.
But Leonard started the season off the bench in his return, missed the Clippers' second game, was back for the third and then was inactive for the next 12. He played in their last three, and then went down again. A sprained ankle he sustained late in the fourth quarter of the Clippers' win Monday night over the Utah Jazz will keep Leonard out against the Warriors.
Golden State's next chance at seeing the star who has caused nightmares in the past won't be until Feb. 14. The same goes with Leonard's running mate, Paul George. The seven-time All-Star is out with a strained right hamstring.
Even Luke Kennard, who led the league in 3-point percentage last season, will be stuck to street clothes due to a strained right calf.
The Clippers coming into Wednesday night are 11-7. They're 4-1 with Leonard in the lineup, and 7-6 without him.
Now, time for the 8-10 Warriors.
That record alone is underwhelming for a handful of reasons. The schedule hasn't done them many favors with their cautious approach to back-to-backs. The Warriors are coming off a 45-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, one in which they were without Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green.
Curry has carried his 2022 NBA Finals MVP performance into the regular season, posting numbers that are similar or better than his unanimous MVP season back in 2015-16. Draymond Green is having his highest offensive rating of his career, and his 7.9 points per game are his most since the 2019-20 season.
His defense has been elite at times, and on the wrong end of a bigger problem in other cases. Klay Thompson started off extremely slow, but in his last two games has scored 20 points and 41 points, shooting 56.4 percent from the field and 60.9 percent from long distance after a team meeting where Green kept it real with his longtime teammate.
Jordan Poole in the Warriors' latest blowout loss scored 26 points and now is averaging 28.0 points in his four starts this season. But that number drops to only 12.7 points per game coming off the bench, which is his role on this team as the Warriors' Sixth Man.
The Warriors' extremely inexperienced core of James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody isn't as ready for such large roles as the front office and coaching staff hoped, having to turn to two-way players for reliability. Wiseman played his third G League game this season on Tuesday night, and the Warriors aren't rushing him back to be with the big squad.
Anything can happen come Wednesday night. At nearly full strength, the Warriors easily could handle this version of the Clippers. Maybe the short-handed Clips become the next team to have their way with the defending champions.
All in all, basketball lovers likely will have to wait until Valentine's Day to get a better sense of where these should-be contenders stand. Oh wait, that's the second night of a back-to-back for the Warriors.
Don't hold your breath, many more mysteries will evolve this season.