With the National Basketball Association having also fined
Sterling $2.5 million for racist comments that drew outrage from
players, fans and commercial sponsors, the Clippers rocked their
home Staples Center venue as they beat the Warriors 113-103.
Two days after being pounded 97-118 in Oakland, where they were
clearly distracted by the first reports of Sterling's divisive
comments, the Los Angeles players were energized as they seized a
3-2 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.
Chants of "We Are One! We Are One!" echoed around the arena during
the fourth quarter as impassioned Clippers fans roared their team on
to victory, center DeAndre Jordan pouring in 25 points, a playoff
career high, along with 18 rebounds.
All-Star guard Chris Paul weighed in with 20 points while Jamal
Crawford contributed 19 from the bench but it was the sense of
closure following NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's tough stand against
Sterling that set the tone.
"I think it put a lot of guys' minds at ease in that locker room,"
Paul said of Sterling being barred from any role in the operations
of his franchise or from serving as one of the league's governors.
"It's definitely been tough the last few days, but we've been
getting through it.
"When we ran out for warm-ups, it was one of the most emotional
things I think I've ever been a part of. We have a tough locker
room, all of us are tough, but it almost brought tears to your eyes
just to feel the support from our fans."
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers had predicted before the game that a
soldout Staples Center would be a "safe haven" for his team, but
even he was taken aback by the crowd's high-octane energy.
"They were awesome, that's as good as I've ever seen them," Rivers
told reporters. "They're unbelievable. Everybody was going through
this. It's almost like everybody wanted to exhale tonight. It was
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Repeatedly during Game Five, the public address announcer kept
reminding the fans: "We Are One".
In response, the crowd kept raising the decibel level while waving
placards ranging from "For Sale. Racists need not apply" and "I'm
here for Griffin, not for Sterling" to "Everyone is Different,
Respect the Differences."
Clippers guard J.J. Redick paid tribute to his team mates for
rebounding from their lackluster display in Game Four on Sunday, and
also to the crowd for pulling together in the wake of the Sterling
"Our team showed some great mental toughness," said Redick. "It's
crazy to me to think that a team as good as Golden State didn't get
our full attention for three days, and that's human nature, but we
were distracted (for Game Four).
"You could tell tonight. We had a great crowd and we were locked in.
We were focused and it was still a battle. They're a great
basketball team and it's going to be tough to close them out."
The Clippers will aim to wrap up their Western Conference
quarter-final series against the Warriors when they return to
Oakland for Game Six on Thursday.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)
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