It was as if a fog of doubt, uncertainty and negative emotion was lifted over the Los Angeles Clippers; on Tuesday night it was back to the business of basketball. At 2 P.M. EST, Donald Sterling received a lifetime ban from the National Basketball Association by Commissioner Adam Silver and the Clippers received a green light to release all of their frustrations on their in-state rivals the Golden State Warriors.
Seemingly more relaxed than he was days prior, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers commented, “I was asked, do I need to talk with Donald, and I passed, quite honestly, I don’t think right now is the time or the place, for me, at least. I just took a pass.” Sterling also received a $2.5 million-dollar fine from the league.
An increased police presence, fans protesting outside the arena, and a swarm of media surrounded Staples Center, however, for the first time in this five days the majority of attention was placed back on the hardwood. Although some still believed a statement of protest was still necessary. Warriors head coach Mark Jackson addressed the days monumental events with, “I believe if it was me, I wouldn’t come to the game. I believe the fans, the loudest statement that they can make as fans is to not show up to the game… To me, it will make the noise of it not being tolerated. That this is a different time. It’s unfortunate, and we cannot allow someone with these feelings to profit.” Against Jackson’s suggestions, Clippers fans showed up for LAC’s 138th consecutive sell-out game in full support.
While the Clippers were the only team to protest in the previous meeting in Oakland, this time players from both squads wore black socks for player solidarity. In support of the Clippers, one fan wore a T-shirt that read: “Sterling Out Equality In.”
Greeted by a standing ovation when they ran onto the court for pregame warmups, the Clippers opened the first quarter with increased energy and more relaxed demeanor. A completely different team than the squad that lost game-four in Golden State. “I just felt like they needed to breathe. They’ve been inundated with this,” Rivers said.
DeAndre Jordan got out to a hot start for the Clippers with 10 points and five rebounds. He would finish the game with a final stat line of 18 rebounds (6 offensive), four blocked shots and a game-high 25 points.
The Warriors started off a bit sluggish, only putting up 21 points compared to the Clippers 31. Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala and David Lee each had four points. In a bit of role reversal the Clippers attempted seven three-point attempts compared to Golden State’s two, with the Clippers cashing in on 43 percent of theirs, while the Warriors split their two attempts for 50 percent.
Thompson and Stephen Curry ended the night shooting fairly well for the Warriors. Thompson closed the night with a team-leading 21 points and Curry followed with 17. The Clippers played the same type of tough defense on Curry that produced a 2-1 lead on the series before Golden State evened it up in the previous meeting. Certainly increased focus and the relief provided from the league’s decision on Sterling helped the Clippers refocus their efforts on defense and the intangibles.
By halftime the Clippers held a five-point lead on the heels of Jordan’s 15 points and Blake Griffin’s eight points on 1-of-8 shooting. Griffin would end the night with a final tally of 18 points and seven rebounds, winning the battle over newly appointed Warriors starter for the second-consecutive game Draymond Green who finished the game with only 10 points.
In the second half, Jamal Crawford continued his positive play from game four, scoring 11 in the fourth quarter and finishing with 19 points off the bench. A much better performance for Crawford who shot the Clippers out of a few possessions in the previous game. Darren Collison followed behind Crawford with 15 points.
Griffin scored eight quick points in the fourth quarter, and although Warriors coach Mark Jackson employed the hack-a-DeAndre strategy, Jordan would sink eight free throws to lead the Clippers to a 113-103 win.
Game six will be held in Oakland at Oracle Arena on Thursday night. The Clippers are on the verge of winning only their third playoff series victory since Sterling bought the team in 1981. However on the bright side, they now have a perfect record in the post Donald Sterling era.