The off-court drama that has become the Los Angeles Clippers has cooled.
That’s not to say all the headlines surround Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his racist rant have gone away.
But a series that was expected to be competitive remained that Thursday as the Golden State Warriors beat the Clippers, 100-99, at Oracle Arena to even the best-of-seven series at 3-3 and force a game Game 7 Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 24 points and nine assists. Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 19 points.
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The focus was on the game more Thursday, but the issues that turned this Western Conference first round series from a a battle between division rivals into a case study for race relations and social and political action aren’t gone.
Sterling’s racially-charged remarks that were released via TMZ over the weekend led to a lifetime ban by commissioner Adam Silver, a $2.5 million fine and the league seeking to terminate Sterling’s ownership of the team.
Sterling cannot attend games under the ban. Sterling’s estranged wife, Rochelle, attended Games 4 and 5 after the remarks became public.
She did not attend Thursday’s game. Since her appearance at Game 5, more reports have highlighted her part in housing discrimination lawsuits against Sterling.
Sterling was heard telling girlfriend V. Stiviano: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
The NBA’s Advisory/Finance Committee met via conference call Thursday and agreed unanimously to move forward in terminating Sterling’s ownership and will meet again next week.
“No reaction,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers of the decision. “I mean you’re not surprised by that. That’s good for them. I think there is a lot of work to be done in that area, and I’m just trying to stay out of that area.”
Sterling’s recorded comments helped make the series a case study in race relations and social and political action through sports.
Players across the league reportedly planned to sit out games Tuesday if commissioner Adam Silver hadn’t punished Sterling harshly.
With a lifetime ban, $2.5 million and league owners moving to termiante Sterling’s ownership, the focus has crept back toward the play on the court.
That sport, however, was able to to server as a tool to denounce racism was not lost on either team.
“I applaud both organizations, the ownership, management, leadership and players of both organizations and the stance they’ve made and the comments made,” said Warriors coach Mark Jackson. “I think it’s something that I’m proud of, proud to be a part of. ... I’m glad that now the spotlight is on a great series.”
Silver’s ruling came Tuesday, on the 22nd anniversary of the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict in which four police officers videotaped beating King were found not guilty.
Jackson played for the Clippers that season.
Jackson did not want to recall that situation, which led to playoff games involving the Lakers and Clippers being moved because of the civil unrest.
“I do remember it was a tough moment, a tough time and it was shocking,” Jackson said. “But I do remember also that statement was made at the time by the leaders in the group, by the organization, by the league and by the people. I think that is the similarities in this situation where wrong will not be tolerated.”
After Sterling’s comments became public, there was some sentiment from the public to see the Clippers lose because of a disdain for Sterling.
With Sterling’s eventual ouster in the works, there has been a shift, making the team with the third-best record in the West a team many wants to see win.
“Honestly I’ve probably missed a lot of it because I’ve done a pretty good job of just not knowing what’s going on,” Rivers said. “Just kind of living in my own little world, but I hear it. It’s great.”