Beyond all the numbers and adjustments, there was this feeling that the Los Angeles Clippers were playing to disassociate themselves from their owner, and playing for more than this playoff series. Whatever it was that pushed them forward, it worked as they beat the Golden State Warriors 113-103 behind and excellent performance from DeAndre Jordan.
The Clippers had the whole shadow of the Sterling scandal hanging above their heads, but the result of Adam Silver and the NBA’s investigation lifted some sort of burden from these players, knowing that their future won’t be associated with a man they don’t want to play far, was a great 31-21 start in the first quarter, resounding feedback from the fans Mark Jackson tried to manipulate, and taking the lead in the series once again.
Jordan led the team with 25 points, 18 rebounds and 4 blocks. He shot 9-of-17 from the line, but hardly missed when he got the ball near the rim, finishing with 8-of-10. The Clippers were a lot more aggressive, staying away from long range jumpers and focusing on scoring from close range. They attempted 35 shots from 10 feet or under, scoring 40 points that way, 12 points more than in the horrendous game 4.
We’ve been talking through the playoffs about the Warriors needing the trio of Iguodala, Barnes and Green to step up for them to make up for Bogut not playing. Green did score 10 points, but he was helpless under the basket. Iguodala finished with 18, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, but Harrison Barnes didn’t fulfill his end of the bargain, scoring only 5 points on 2-of-6 from the field, as the Warriors couldn’t turn their surprising lead in rebounds to something that helps them make this game closer.
Stephen Curry scored 17 points but the Clippers prevented him from taking shots. He attempted only 10 field goals and finished with only four assists. The Warriors needed more from him in a game that gave them nothing from their bench, especially when compared to the Clippers, who got 19 points from Jamal Crawford and 15 from Darren Collison. Struggling to get to the line, while the Clippers took 22 more shots from there, was also something that turned into a thorn in their side.
Maybe the whole Donald Sterling thing is behind us now, but the Clippers need to use that anger and motivation to pull through in a rough Oracle arena. The Golden State Warriors might not be the better team overall, but they seem to have enough moments that enable them to swing the series their way. They just messed them up in game 5, making only 5-of-19 pull-up on jump shots after shooting 11-16 on such shots in Game 4. Stephen Curry was held to 9 points on pull ups after scoring 18 points on such shots in Game 4.
For the Clippers, this series has become about more than simply winning, but about proving some sort of point. What they’ve been lacking in basketball, which has been up and down as far as their execution is concerned, they might make up for it by letting the Sterling scandal motivate them. It might be enough to do more than just winning the first round.