Below are five things to take from the Clippers’ Game 3 118-112 Game 3 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center:
1. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook took over in the final minutes. After this intriguing flashed reeks of inconsistency in their first-round matchup against Memphis, Durant and Westbrook have left the Clippers in fits. Beyond the stat lines between Durant (36 points) and Westbrook (23 points), the pair also helped close out a game that went nip and tuck for nearly four quarters.
First, Westbrook drove to the basket with ease for an open layup. Then, he buried a top of the key 3-pointer that gave the Thunder a 111-107 edge with 2:09 left. Durant iced the game then with a turnaround jumper for a 113-107 lead with 1:13 left, a play that left Clippers fans crying as much as Durant’s mom shed tears this week when her son delivered a riveting MVP speech.
2. Blake Griffin thrived through the physical play. Blood streamed out of Griffin’s nose after fighting for a rebound with Serge Ibaka. Elbows greeted him every time he entered the paint. Pushing and shoving ensued anytime he fought through a rebound. But Griffin thrived through it all, posting 34 points on 13 of 22 shooting, eight rebounds and four assists. That marked a vast improvement in Griffin’s in both Game 1 and 2 where he shot a combined 12 of 29 from the field mostly on jump shots. In Game 3, Griffin painted a different picture. He resorted toward driving to the basket with enough force that any ensuing contact became a non issue. Griffin still shot six of his attempts from the outside, including one missed three-point field goal attempt. But he complementing that developing skill by becoming more aggressive.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers conceded “it would be a hard situation” if Shelly Sterling retained control of the Clippers due to her husband, Donald, making racially disparaging remarks on an audio tape.
But Shelly’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, argued in a statement on Thursday that his client maintains the right to retain her ownership stake with Clippers. She has been a co-owner and alternate governor of the franchise since 1981, backed by a family trust that both Shelly and Sterling equally share.
“Despite all of the furor during the past week, Mrs. Sterling still has property rights,” O’Donnell said. “She has worked tirelessly over the years to build up a franchise that was once a cellar dweller into a sports powerhouse. She has the same right as anyone else in America to enjoy and control the fruits of those labors, and that includes deciding whether to keep or sell her 50 percent interest in the team.”
Longtime Los Angeles Clippers president Andy Roeser will take an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately, the NBA announced today.
Roeser took over the franchise’s day-to-day operations after owner Donald Sterling was banned for life last week, though he would have had to answer to a new CEO. However, his name was also attached to a press release that questioned the veracity of audio capturing Sterling’s racist comments.
He joined the team in 1984, and has been the president since 1986.
“This will provide an opportunity for a new CEO to begin on a clean slate and for the team to stabilize under difficult circumstances,” Mike Bass, the NBA executive vice president of communications, said in a statement.
On Monday evening, Lakers great Magic Johnson spoke to students at Long Beach State University at a closed to the public event. Students were allowed to ask Johnson questions during the Q/A portion and the question on everyone’s mind was finally asked: Is Magic interested in buying the Clippers?
“I don’t know what me and my group are going to do,” said Johnson when asked about his interest in the Clippers. “But I will say this, 20 people have already called me interested in partnering up with me, so money will not be an option”
When the initial question was asked, many cheered, but there were some boos (presumably from Lakers fans). But Johnson also admitted that if he actually did try to purchase the Clippers that it would be a “battle for him personally,” due to his allegiance to the Lakers franchise.
“I really truly love the Lakers,” said Johnson. “I am a Laker. So that will be interesting.”
Johnson has been rumored to be eyeing the Clippers, hoping to be add to his Southern California empire that includes the Dodgers and the L.A. Sparks in the wake of Sterling’s ban from the NBA for his racist comments, which mentioned Johnson.
“It’s a sad day. Racism. Discrimination. It’s why do we still have to go through that, here we are in 2014,” said Johnson. “While I was upset, I feel sorry for him, living in the past. It’s just uncalled for.”
The Lakers great reminded the audience that the Clippers are not actually for sale as of yet, with the NBA owners still needing to vote Sterling out. Johnson figured that sale would not happen for another eight months to a year.
“There is no way that man walks away without a battle,” said Johnson.
The Clippers question was also brought up earlier in the talk, when a student asked Johnson what did he want to accomplish in his life that he had not already. When Johnson paused, a student yelled out “buy the Clippers,” at which point Johnson and the room burst into laughter.
“Buying the Clippers,” said Johnson jokingly. “That would be it.”
By Vincent Bonsignore
OKLAHOMA CITY – Blake Griffin isn’t the only Clippers player making a homecoming to Oklahoma City against the Thunder in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Griffin, who was born here, grew into a local legend at Oklahoma Christian High School – where his father was a celebrated coach – and later at the University of Oklahoma.
But he’s not the only Clipper with local roots.
Back in 2005 Chris Paul was just beginning his NBA career when the New Orleans Hornets were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Needing a home while there arena was being rebuilt, the Hornets spent two seasons in Oklahoma City.
It’s where Paul emerged as an NBA star and it’s a city he remains fond of.
“I always say this about Oklahoma, I’ll always have a special place in my heart,” Paul said. “This is where I won rookie of the year, I played my first two years here. This is where I started becoming a professional.”
Those were trying times for the Hornets, as they split time between two cities. Especially for a young players still trying to find his way.
But the connection they made with Oklahoma City was special.
“It was unreal. I had never seen anything like it,” Paul said. “Obviously I was new to the NBA.
But Oklahoma City made the transition easy by welcoming the Hornets with open arms.
“It was fun, I loved it here.” Paul said. “It was exciting, the fans were unreal.”
And the connection was real, as Paul learned when he put on a basketball camp for kids and was astonished by the turnout.
“I had 450 kids,” he said. “It was a great time here. I had a lot of relationships, people I still keep in contact with.”
In the process, the rest of the NBA was turned on to Oklahoma City’s passion for professional basketball. That was an essential component to the city eventually landing the Seattle Supersonics in 2008.
“I definitely think it had something to do with it,” Paul said. “Because everyone around the league got a chance to see that this city could support an NBA franchise.”
Now Paul returns as the enemy. And while Oklahoma City remains near to his heart, that won’t stop him from taking out the Thunder.
“Once they throw the ball up, it’s basketball,” he said.
The Clippers lost their owner, lost their focus and lost their energy.
But they became one voice.
The Clippers became one voice because they said so on their T-shirts. The Clippers became one voice as coach Doc Rivers became the lone representative openly talking about the controversy stemmed from Donald Sterling making racially disparaging remarks on an audio tape released over a week ago. The Clippers became one voice when, as Matt Barnes observed afterwards, he marveled at how the team learned to trust each other through the good, the bad and the ugly.
So once it all became clear the Clippers would close out their competitive, draining and unpredictable first-round series that ended with a 126-121 Game 7 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday at Staples Center, Rivers performed a fist-pumping dance along the sidelines. After exuding a sense of calmness despite the swirling chaos around him, Rivers could finally let loose.
“I needed to exhale some,” Rivers said. “This was a hard week. Was it a week? I don’t even know. It feels like two months. It’s been hard. It was for me too. I needed to be able to smile and laugh and cheer and be proud of something. I was very proud of my players.”
Below are five things to take from the Clippers’ 126-121 Game 7 victory Saturday over the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center (This goes beyond winning the series, 4-3, facing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals and playing Game 1 in OKC on Monday).
1. The Clippers closed out a game that featured four ties and seven lead changes by basically doing everything. Blake Griffin (24 points) and DeAndre Jordan (15 points) threw down lobs. Jordan blocked a shot on Stephen Curry as he drove the lane. The Clippers made all six of their last foul shots. Even when Golden State cut the lead with Curry drawing a foul on a three-point play or Draymond Green three-pointer, the Clippers maintained their poise by scoring on the other end.
2. Jamal Crawford added additional scoring punch. Clippers forward Jamal Crawford never meets a shot he does not like, converting on pull-up jumpers, fadeaways and of course, four-point plays with ease. Warriors forward Jordan Crawford is an inconsistent bench player that had no answer for Jamal on defense yet whose scoring suddenly caught fire. But it was Jamal Crawford who played a large part in the outcome, posting 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting. The most notable moments: Jamal converted on a 4-point play. He nailed two three-pointers from within 26 feet, including one that gave the Clippers a 106-102 lead with 5:31 left.