The dark cloud of owner Donald Sterling was lifted, and that allowed the Clippers to play with freedom against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.
Unburdened after Sterling was banned for life by Commissioner Adam Silver earlier in the day, the Clippers worked hard to pull off a 113-103 victory over the Warriors in Game 5 at Staples Center to open a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 6 is Thursday night in Oakland.
“I just thought they had great mental toughness tonight,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “They really wanted to win this game and I thought tonight they did that.”
No Clipper seemed to want it as much as DeAndre Jordan, who scored a playoff career-high 25 points despite making only nine of 17 from the free-throw line. He also had 18 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“He texted me right after we got back to L.A. [Sunday night] and said, ‘That wasn’t me and I will be back,’” Rivers said, referring to Jordan’s scoreless effort in Game 4. “I didn’t know he meant that.”
Chris Paul (20 points), Blake Griffin (18 ) and Jamal Crawford (19) all did their part for the Clippers, who lost Hedo Turkoglu to a bruised lower back.
Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 21 points.
The day started when Silver banned Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA and said he can’t attend any NBA games or practices. Sterling can’t be present at any Clippers facilities and he can’t participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.
Silver also fined Sterling $2.5 million and will urge the Board of Governors to use its authority to force Sterling to sell the team.
Sterling’s downfall came when his voice was heard on an audio recording telling a friend he was upset she posted a picture on Instagram of herself next to Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
Silver said Sterling admitted that he was the person on the recording.
“In response to today’s ruling by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, my teammates and I are in agreement with this decision,” Paul said.
The Clippers had “We Are One” on the team’s website surrounded in black. Eleven other NBA teams had the same slogan on their websites as a sign of unity.
All of the Clippers’ team personnel wore black for solidarity, and they did so with Sterling’s wife, Shelly, being at the game.
“She asked if she could come, which I thought was a very nice gesture,” Rivers said. “She told me to tell them [the players] that she loved them.”
With Sterling gone, Andy Roeser, the Clippers’ president and NBA alternate governor, will continue to run the day-to-day business operations and Rivers, who also is the senior vice president of basketball operations, will continue to run the basketball side.
“He made a decision today that had to be made,” Rivers said about Silver. “I don’t think this is something we rejoice in or anything like that. I told the players about the decision and I think they were just happy that there was a resolution and it’s over.”