The Los Angeles Clippers, and not only the players and coaching staff, are still coping with the scandal surrounding team owner Donald Sterling ahead of Saturday night’s defining matchup against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.
As the first Game Seven in franchise history looms, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers spent Friday speaking with L.A.’s marketing, sales, and numerous staff members who were unsure how they could still work for team owner Donald Sterling after his racist remarks were made public a week ago, according to the Los Angeles Times.
There’s no doubt Sterling’s continuing saga, which culminated in his lifetime banish from the NBA by Commissioner Adam Silver, has overshadowed a thrilling series between the Clippers and Warriors. Yet for at least 48 minutes of game time, both teams will be squarely focused on advancing to the second round where they’ll face either Oklahoma City or Memphis.
The Clippers used the emotional momentum of Sterling’s banishment to a 113-103 victory in Game Five for a 3-2 series lead behind center DeAndre Jordan’s overpowering 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. Guards Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison came off the bench for 34 key points as well.
L.A. specifically attacked the basket to earn 41 free throw attempts to Golden State’s 19, with Jordan going 9-for-17 from the line.
The series looked to be in the Clippers hands until the Warriors Stephen Curry ignited for 24 points and nine assists and second-year forward Draymond Green provided 14 points and 14 rebounds with five steals in his first-career playoff start in Game Six’s 100-99 victory to force the final matchup.
Reserve Warriors center Jermaine O’Neal sprained his right knee in Game Six, but Green , and forwards David Lee and Andre Igoudala were still able to contain Jordan and leading Clipper scorer Blake Griffin, who scored 17 points on 8-for-24 shooting from the floor before fouling out for the second time in the series.
Clipper captain and point guard Chris Paul also shot 3-for-10 from the field for nine points to go with five rebounds and eight assists but four turnovers in Game Six. Mareese Speights chipped in 12 points and six rebounds with a block in 12 minutes during Game Six, and he’ll likely be tapped again by Warriors head coach Mark Jackson in Game Seven.
O’Neal underwent an MRI exam on Friday, and talked about how much pain he is in with the Bay Area News Group, but that he plans to play in Game Seven with a knee brace following a pain injection.
"A pretty good amount, but you try to weigh out the pain of not being able to help your team, doing the things necessary for your team to win a Game 7," O'Neal said. "To me, that would be more pain than any physical ailment that you can go through, especially for a person in my position at this particular part of my career.
"I'm going to try to give everything I've got, and hopefully whatever I got is good enough to help my team win."
Start Time: 10:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: TNT
Live Stream Info: A live online stream can be watched at TNT Overtime
Betting Odds: Clippers -7
Over/Under: 210 points
Prediction: Clippers over Warriors 104-98