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 coming to 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.
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 résumé 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 9.8 assists.
Beyond Curry and Paul, the other matchups are almost as juicy. Lee got the better of Griffin in the teams' four meetings last year -- a big reason Golden State went 3-1 against the Clippers -- but this year's first confrontation was a standoff. Bogut and Jordan should be fun, too, what with Jordan emerging as the NBA's third-best rebounder at 13.1 per game and Bogut having turned in nine straight double-digit rebound efforts, including 20- and 18-rebound games during the past week.
Finally, there's the Jackson-Rivers dynamic, two ex-point-guard coaches who went head-to-head 21 times as players and were even involved in a major three-way 1992 trade in which Rivers supplanted Jackson as the New York Knicks' point guard while Jackson was dealt to -- of all teams -- the Clippers.
Many believe Rivers was a coaching model that Jackson followed, and the Warriors coach has nothing but respect for his familiar counterpart. He's as stoked about this Christmas matchup as anybody.
"I think it's a great platform to be on national television against a very good basketball team with nothing else really to watch," Jackson said. "So it'll be a great opportunity for us. We're excited about it."
"He's definitely excited," Stephen Curry said. "He's been waiting patiently to get a call-up, and hopefully he'll be able to get some minutes and show what he's about. I think it's a good fit for him, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does."
L.A. Clippers (20-9) at Warriors (16-13), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA, ESPN