Warriors-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

The Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers have only lost eight games this season, but two have come at the hands of Stephen Curry and the surprising Golden State Warriors.

One was just three days ago.

Curry and the Warriors look to beat the Clippers again in order to match their longest winning streak of the season Saturday night at Staples Center.

Los Angeles (26-8) leads the division by three games on second-place Golden State (22-10), one of the biggest surprises in the NBA since it's reached the playoffs once in 18 seasons.

The Warriors' impressive turnaround has them one win shy of matching their total from all of last season, their first under coach Mark Jackson.

Jackson has them in position for a third win in a row over the Clippers after Curry poured in 31 points with eight assists, while hitting 11 of 16 from the floor - 6 of 8 from beyond the arc - in a 115-94 win against them Wednesday.

"The Clippers didn't need to beat us to validate that they're a good basketball team, and we didn't need to beat them to validate that we're one," Jackson said. "Two teams that are going to be around.

"To us, it was another basketball game. Another opportunity to get better."

Curry continues to do that in what's turning out to be his best season since being selected seventh overall out of Davidson in 2009. The point guard leads the team with career highs of 20.4 points per game and 6.5 assists.

He was key to winning the season's first meeting with the Clippers on Nov. 3, scoring 23 points in a 114-110 final at Staples Center.

The Warriors haven't won both season meetings on the road in this series since 2002-03, and doing so would also equal their season-high five-game winning streak set from Dec. 5-12.

Golden State, though, isn't expecting to find welcoming hosts.

"Going back to their place on Saturday, we know it's going to be a dog fight again, and they're going to be ready and make adjustments," said forward David Lee, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday for his 20th double-double.

Lee is second on Golden State with an average of 20.2 points and fifth in the league with 11.1 boards, but he wasn't nearly that effective offensively at Staples Center in November, scoring eight points with 12 rebounds.

While Curry and Lee give the Warriors a tremendous one-two scoring punch, the Clippers have their own in guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin.

Griffin is averaging 17.6 points and 8.6 rebounds, while Paul is scoring 16.7 and his 9.3 assists are second in the NBA.

Both were vital to Los Angeles bouncing back from its latest defeat to Golden State on Friday. Paul had a season-high 30 points with 13 assists and Griffin added 24 points in a 107-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

That was a welcome change for Griffin after he totaled 29 points over the previous three games, including 10 on Wednesday while making just 2 of 11 from the field and struggling versus Lee.

"Those guys have been resting since they played us a few nights ago,'' said Paul, who has totaled 50 points in two season meetings with Golden State. "It's our home game and we've got to take the momentum and beat them.''

Despite the Clippers and Warriors seemingly pulling away from the rest of the pack in the division race, Jackson is playing down any talk of a burgeoning rivalry.

"We're just two teams that's trying to change our recent history and build something from this day forward," he said. "Now, where it goes from there, I think it can be exciting and we both have staying power, but neither one of us have done anything yet."

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