OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers spent much of the pregame Wednesday night claiming they are not a rivalry.
Then, after a hard-fought game that featured three technical fouls, two flagrant fouls and a pair of ejections, they echoed their earlier sentiments.
But in those 48 minutes in between, pretty much everything about the Warriors' 105-103, nationally televised victory over the Clippers screamed out this was more than just a basketball game.
"It was a physical game. We battled them and they battled us," said Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who was in the middle of two skirmishes, including one that led to the ejection of Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin in the fourth quarter. "We did a good job not taking a step back."
Warriors forward Harrison Barnes' two free throws with 1:09 remaining broke a tie and provided the final scoring of a game that, fittingly, was won on Golden State's defensive end of the court.
The Clippers missed their last five shots, including three by standout point guard Chris Paul from point-blank range in the game's final 41.9 seconds.
"We had chances to win with one of our best players off of the floor," Clippers coach Doc Rivers insisted. "We had two layups. That had nothing to do with the referees. We still should have won."
Paul's last miss on a 9-for-20 night -- a five-footer on which he was denied a layup by a well-positioned Warriors reserve Kent Bazemore -- was smothered out of bounds by Golden State guard Klay Thompson with one second remaining. Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford misfired on a desperation 30-footer on the subsequent inbounds play, ending the game but not the action.
Paul and Bogut exchanged shoves after the final buzzer. Clippers backup Matt Barnes got into the rapidly developing situation in front of the Warriors bench before cooler heads prevailed.
"I think we need to take that to every game," Bogut said of the Warriors' feisty attitude. "You don't have to like your opponent."
The win was the third in a row for the Warriors (17-13), while the Clippers (20-10) saw a league-best, five-game winning streak come to an end.
"I didn't think it was us tonight," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of the rough play. "I thought we were kicking their butts, and they went to something else, to be honest. It's a smart thing for them to do."
Tempers began to flare on the final play of the third quarter, when Griffin and Warriors forward Draymond Green tangled away from the ball. Green was ejected for having elbowed Griffin in the chin, while the Clippers star was given a technical foul.
Just 1:17 into the fourth quarter, Griffin drew a second technical and was disqualified as well. This one resulted from a wrestling match with Bogut under the Los Angeles basket, a play in which Bogut was assessed a flagrant foul.
"I didn't think Blake deserved to be thrown out," Bogut insisted. "Just shake it off and go to the other end."
"He did a good job," he said of what he considered to be an acting job by Bogut. "He sold it and then they (the referees) fell for it.
"I didn't do anything and got thrown out of the game. Like I said, it all boils down to they fell for it. To me, that's cowardly, cowardly basketball."
The Clippers scored the game's next five points to break a tie and go up 83-78 with 9:45 to play, but a Thompson 3-pointer highlighted a six-point Warriors run that flipped the score in Golden State's favor at 84-83.
There were six lead changes and four ties after that, the last of the ties coming at 103-all when Paul hit a pair of free throws with 1:36 to go.
Barnes' game-winning free throws came on the Warriors' next possession.
"We like them," Warriors coach Mark Jackson claimed with a broad smile afterward. "Merry Christmas."
Lee had a 23-point, 13-rebound double-double to lead the Warriors. Thompson also scored 23, while point guard Stephen Curry (15 points, 11 assists) and Bogut (10 points, 14 rebounds) also recorded double-doubles.
For Lee and Bogut, the tandem double-figure rebounding game was their 10th in a row, the longest such streak in the NBA since 1978.
"Keeping them out of transition and keeping them off the board, those are the two big things," Lee assessed.
The Clippers had only 14 fast-break points in the game. They were outrebounded 49-38.
Paul had 26 points to lead Los Angeles, which moves on to Portland for the second half of a back-to-back Thursday night. Paul also found time for 11 assists.
Griffin finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in just 32 1/2 minutes before his ejection. Center DeAndre Jordan (13 points, 13 rebounds) had a third Clippers double-double, while Crawford contributed 19 points.
NOTES: The night got off to an acrimonious start when the Clippers refused the Warriors' invitation to share pregame chapel, which is standard NBA practice. The Clippers denied the Warriors access to their chapel before the previous meeting in Los Angeles on Halloween night, forcing Golden State to hold its own. ... When asked before the game if his team had a rivalry with the Warriors, Clippers coach Doc Rivers assured, "Neither team has done anything to have a rivalry yet, but I do think it would be neat if we could create one by both of us becoming great teams." ... The Warriors improved to 10-13 all-time on Christmas, while the Clippers fell to 4-8. ... The Warriors were the only home team to win on the NBA's five-game Christmas card Wednesday. ... The game pitted big men with the league's two longest active streaks of games hitting at least 50 percent of their shots. Warriors C Andrew Bogut ran his string to 18 games by shooting 5-for-8, while Clippers C DeAndre Jordan now has a 17-gamer after going 6-for-6.