OAKLAND — Moments before tipoff of Game 3 on Thursday, the Warriors' first playoff game at home, the opening video at Oracle Arena flashed a display of fireworks, fire and portable video boards that spelled out, “Beat L.A.”
The popular chant, second nature to fans, has taken on a new meaning. The opponents on the court were the Los Angeles Clippers, not the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Warriors were playing in the playoffs. The California contenders are no longer the Lakers and Sacramento Kings, as history has had it, but the Warriors and Clippers.
With two good teams in the same state, “There's always going to be a rivalry,” Warriors guard Jordan Crawford told The San Francisco Examiner.
Teammate David Lee agreed there has been a high degree of competitiveness with the Clippers, a relatively new dynamic given both teams were near the bottom of the Western Conference for what seemed like countless seasons for fans.
But Lee said the competitive fire between the teams this season hasn't been confined to the playoffs, in which the Warriors stole Game 1 in Los Angeles but lost by 40 points in Game 2.
“I wouldn't say it's been any more intense than the other four games during the regular season,” Lee said.
Despite the new energy, Golden State forward Draymond Green said it was too soon to call Warriors-Clippers a rivalry.
“Both teams have got to add some [championship] banners before they can be called a rivalry,” Green said.
The teams' coaches agreed on one thing: the fans at Oracle Arena are loud, and they expected them to be even more vocal with the Warriors and Clippers facing each other in the playoffs.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson called his team's followers “the best fans and there is no secret about that.”
“These people are energetic, enthusiastic,” Jackson said. “This will be different than L.A., with all due respect. This place will be off the charts in terms of the energy in the building.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he has always seen Warriors fans support their team with a passion regardless of how they were doing, and expected them to be even louder “now that [the Warriors] are good.”
Both teams are more than capable of going to the other team's home and winning, Jackson added.
Hercules resident Dana Knight, 54, said the Clippers are a very physical team but the Warriors have been able to stand up and play them one-on-one.
“Every team has good and bad days,” she said. “The Warriors lost Game 2, but the first game showed that they are quite even.”
Wearing the golden “Loud. Proud. Warriors” T-shirts handed out to fans, Union City resident Dave Rodrigues, 59, began shouting, “Beat L.A.” starting half an hour before tipoff.
“It's different times for different teams to have different dynasties,” he said.