The weight of the Donald Sterling saga did not pull the Clippers all the way down.
Instead, the Clippers summoned all they had left in their collective tanks to grind out a 126-121 Game 7 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night at Staples Center.
With six players scoring in double figures, the Clippers won the first-round best-of-seven series, four games to three.
The Clippers advance to the second round of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. They'll face the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Game 1 on Monday night in Oklahoma.
“I just thought with all this stuff, this team just needed this win,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said, referring to the Sterling controversy. “I mean, we grinded.”
J.J. Redick had 20 points, including two big free throws late. And DeAndre Jordan had 15 points, 18 rebounds and three blocked shots, including a crucial block in the closing minutes.
Warriors All-Star point guard Stephen Curry had a game-high 33 points.
“We just showed a lot of fight,” Paul said. “There were ups and downs throughout the entire series. This was a slugfest. It was a dogfight. That’s a good team we beat over there. Steph was amazing all series long.”
The Clippers appeared in control when they took a 118-112 lead. But a three-pointer by Draymond Green (24 points) with 13 seconds left pulled Golden State to within 120-118.
Redick made two free throws with 12.1 seconds left for a 122-118 Clippers lead and Paul made two more free throws to make it 124-118.
Once the game was in hand, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers screamed and yelled with the fans. He even slapped a high-five with a Clippers broadcaster, obviously glad to get past the Sterling drama for another day.
“For me, my excitement was not for me at all,” Rivers said. “It was for everybody. I wanted the fans to get excited. They were almost sitting there in shock. I just wanted them to get excited and exhale for a second -- because all we have is a second. We play on Monday ... I needed to exhale some too.
These evenly matched teams displayed a strong dislike for each other during the regular season, but that wasn't the main issue during this series as the Sterling scandal dominated the headlines.
The teams had split their first 10 games -- four in the regular season and six in the playoffs -- before the Clippers broke that tie Saturday.
Sterling's comments about blacks continued to envelop the Clippers even after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned the team's owner for life and instructed the other NBA franchise owners to force him to sell the team.
On Saturday, the Clippers even had another distraction to worry about when Sterling's wife, Shelly, attended Game 7, sitting upstairs in a restaurant.
She also was at Game 4 in Oakland after the audio of her husband's controversial remarks was released, and at Game 5 in Los Angeles after Silver issued his ban.
She didn't attend Game 6 in Oakland.
“I thought that our guys fought the adversity,” Rivers said. “They went through it. I thought it drained them and they found enough energy to find a way to win the game.”
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