In a lot of ways, basketball took a backseat today to the wildly offensive comments Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling is alleged to have made.
Those questions dominated both coaches’ pregame availability. President Barack Obama chimed in, as did Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan, the NAACP and Warriors owner Joe Lacob. Then the Clippers performed a quiet protest when they took the court.
For a basketball game, there were about as many non-basketball story lines as you could imagine. But eventually, and to the benefit of the Warriors, basketball had to be played.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said before the game that this controversy was a distraction to more than just the Clippers because he and his team were certainly offended by Sterling’ s comments. While true, they aren’t accepting paychecks from the man. They aren’t questioning how and if they can continue to play for an organization owned by such a person.
The Clippers players are in an unfortunate position. A lot of people are judging every move and non-move they make in response to the controversy. At some point, hopefully this series reverts back to just being about basketball because these are two very talented basketball teams.
Sunday afternoon, we saw the Warriors at their very best in a 118-97 win over the Clippers. Stephen Curry was aggressive early and looking for his shot and opened the game 5 for 5 from 3-point range. Andre Iguodala was a revelation, the player Warriors fans expected to see more often. He added an efficient offensive game (22 points on just eight shots) to his terrific defense and dished out nine assists.
The timidness we’ve seen in David Lee attacking the basket? Outside of his first shot of the game, that was gone. He got open lanes and aggressively went after them. Klay Thompson wasn’t spectacular and fouled out in just less than 29 minutes, but he was hot from the outside early to help set the tone. Draymond Green, making his first start in the series, didn’t show up a ton in the box score (he rarely does) and wasn’t as spectacular as he was in Game 4, but clearly the Warriors’ small lineup created an advantage.
And now the series goes back to L.A. with a guarantee that there will be a Game 6 at Oracle Arena on Thursday night. The Clippers will return to the Staples Center on Tuesday (after taking a day off Monday) not really knowing what to expect. How will their home crowd react in its first game since the comments surfaced?
Doc Rivers said he hopes it doesn’t happen, but understands if fans choose to boycott the game. I’m sure plenty of fans are having that internal debate right now. Nobody wants to support Sterling, but I’m sure they want to support their players. How do they best do that? I don’t know if there’s a right answer.
But from a basketball sense and beyond, the series has taken on a new life. There’s no more intriguing series in the NBA right now — and that’s saying something. If the Warriors can take Game 5 in what should be an interesting (to say the least) atmosphere in L.A., they could be in position to shockingly close this series out when it returns to Oakland on Thursday.
Considering how Games 2 and 3 went, that would be one helluva twist and one that more than a few folks out there that are disgusted with Donald Sterling would love to see.