Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan dunks against the Golden State Warriors during the first half. Jordan was the Clippers leading scorer, rebounder. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Clippers down Warriors 113-103
LOS ANGELES — Several hours after owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life, the Los Angeles Clippers sprinted and soared through a playoff game as if a weight had been lifted from their collective shoulders.
The Clippers finished a tumultuous day with a 113-103 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, leaving their home court to high-fives and standing ovations from fans enthralled by the prospect of watching an NBA title chase without Sterling in his front-row seat.
“We have a tough locker room, all of us are tough, but it almost brought out tears to your eyes just to feel the support from the fans,” said Chris Paul, the Clippers’ star point guard.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver delivered the extraordinary punishment to Sterling after a recording of racist statements by the real-estate mogul was made public several days ago.
The ban is one of the harshest penalties in the history of U.S. sports, but was met with near-universal acclaim from fellow owners, civil rights observers and NBA players who strongly contemplated a playoff boycott if Sterling wasn’t punished harshly.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said while announcing his first major action as the league’s commissioner. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league.”
Sterling was fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowable under the NBA constitution. Silver also will urge the NBA’s board of governors to compel Sterling to sell the Clippers, and if three-fourths of the other 29 owners agree, the league’s longest-tenured owner almost certainly will be forced to give up the team he has owned since 1981.
Sterling made no public comment about the ban, but the owner is among the most litigious people in sports. Team spokesman Seth Burton said in an email that the Clippers had no plans to issue a statement from Sterling on Tuesday, but the franchise released a statement “wholeheartedly” supporting Silver’s decision.
While the league waited to see whether Sterling will fight to keep his team, the Clippers got back to basketball with a flourish.
Two days earlier, with news of Sterling’s comments still fresh, the Clippers dumped their team warmup jerseys in a pile at center court in Oakland in a gesture of defiance against their owner before losing Game 4 of the series.
After Silver’s announcement and an emotional team meeting, the Pacific Division champions methodically beat the Warriors to take a 3-2 series lead. Los Angeles is on the brink of just its third playoff series victory since Sterling bought this star-crossed team nearly 33 years ago.
“I was really proud of them,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought they were tired a lot tonight. I thought you could see them getting tired from all the emotional baggage over the last four days. They had great mental toughness tonight.”
Even while Sterling contemplates his next move, the Clippers organization rushed to distance itself from Sterling. Shortly after Silver’s announcement, the Clippers’ website featured only a black screen with a simple message: “We are one.” The mantra was repeated by the team’s public-address announcers and chanted by their fans several times during their playoff game.
Sterling is banned from Staples Center and the Clippers’ training complex in Playa Vista, a beautiful $60 million facility constructed by Sterling. He is prevented from participating in any decisions by the Clippers, or from any league activity, including board of governors meetings.
Most of the advertising signage at Staples Center was either covered in black cloth or removed for the game. Many sponsors dropped the Clippers or re-evaluated their relationships with the NBA over the past several days, and Silver is hopeful they will return with Sterling’s departure.
Sterling’s long-estranged wife, Rochelle, watched the game from a seat in the lower bowl, not in the courtside chairs usually occupied by the couple — or by Donald Sterling and a string of young female friends. One of those friends, V. Stiviano, was the other voice on the recordings made public last week.
Silver said Sterling had confirmed his voice was on the recordings. He criticized Stiviano for posting pictures of herself online with black athletes Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp.
“Don’t bring him to my games,” Sterling said of Johnson, the former Lakers star and current Los Angeles Dodgers owner. “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast, that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
Despite the urgency of the potential move, Sterling seems almost certain to get the highest sale price in history for an NBA franchise if he is indeed forced to sell. After decades of incompetence under Sterling’s watch, the Clippers are now a successful team located in glamorous Los Angeles — and they’re about to get much more valuable when they sign a new broadcast deal in 2016.
After the news of Sterling’s comments broke last weekend, Rivers clearly questioned whether he would stay with the team that pried him away from the Boston Celtics a year ago with a lucrative contract. The championship-winning coach, who is black, said he still hadn’t made up his mind before Game 5.
“I had given it zero thought, as far as that goes,” said Rivers, who briefly played for Sterling with the Clippers. “Obviously, Adam’s decision, if there was going to be one, makes mine easier.”
Grizzlies hold off Thunder 100-99 in OT
OKLAHOMA CITY — Mike Miller scored 21 points and the Memphis Grizzlies held off the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-99 in a record fourth straight overtime game Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the first-round series.
Oklahoma City rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Miller and called a timeout, trailing 100-99 with 2.9 seconds remaining. Kevin Durant of the Thunder missed a long 3-point attempt and teammate Serge Ibaka tipped the ball in on the rebound. The shot was reviewed and it was determined that it was released after the buzzer, ending the game.
Zach Randolph added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who will host Game 6 on Thursday.
Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City trailed by 20 points in the third quarter but trimmed its deficit to six by the start of the fourth quarter and finally took a 79-78 lead on a 3-pointer by Durant.
Memphis maintained its composure. Consecutive baskets by Mike Conley put the Grizzlies up 87-82 with just under 4 minutes to play.
Oklahoma City’s Caron Butler was fouled by Randolph as he hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 to play. He made the free throw to cut Memphis’ lead to 87-86.
Oklahoma City, trailing 89-88, had a chance to take the lead in the final minute of regulation, but Durant was stripped, and the ball was stolen by Conley. Tony Allen made the first free throw with 30 seconds left. He missed the second, but Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies got the rebound with 20.3 seconds to play.
Conley was stripped by Westbrook, and Westbrook dunked with 4 seconds left to tie the game at 90. Memphis didn’t get a shot off in time at the end of regulation and the teams went to overtime for a record fourth straight game.
NOTES: The Grizzlies wore their warmups inside out and the Thunder wore black socks and shoes in protest of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s incendiary racial remarks. ... The Grizzlies shot 60 percent from the field in the first quarter to lead 30-25. ... Oklahoma City made 6 of 9 3-point attempts in the first half, but just 9 of 34 shots inside the arc. ... Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins attended the game.
Wizards eliminate Bulls with 75-69 victory
CHICAGO — John Wall finished with 24 points, Nene scored 20, and the Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 75-69 on Tuesday night to clinch their first-round series in five games.
Bradley Beal scored 17 points, and the fifth-seeded Wizards advanced in the postseason for just the third time since the 1970s. They will meet Indiana or Atlanta in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It’s a huge step for a franchise that hadn’t been to the postseason since 2008, but with Wall and Beal leading the way, they won 44 games during the regular season.
The Wizards turned a halftime tie into a nine-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and hung on down the stretch.
Chicago’s comeback chances took a big hit early in the final quarter when Taj Gibson crumbled to the court clutching his left ankle after he tried to block a layup by Wall with the Wizards up by six points. He had to be helped off the court and did not return.