Controversy clouds Clippers
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors made the most of their home-court advantage Sunday, leaving the Los Angeles Clippers wondering if their own still exists.
All-Star point guard Stephen Curry exploded for 17 of his game-high 33 points in the first quarter, and the Warriors added on-court misery to the Clippers’ off-the-court issues, thumping the Pacific Division regular-season champs 118-97. The result evened the Western Conference first-round series at 2-2.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven set is scheduled for Tuesday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Clippers were last seen crushing the Warriors by 40 points in Game 2.
However, that was with a packed house of Clippers fans and owner Donald Sterling in attendance, neither of which is even remotely close to being a certainty upon the return Tuesday.
“We’re going home now, and usually that would mean we’re going to our safe haven,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers noted. “I don’t even know if that’s true, to be honest.”
Sterling was asked not to show up in Oakland on Sunday after controversial comments attributed to him went public in the two days off between Games 3 and 4.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver instructed Sterling to lie low while the league investigates the authenticity of a tape recording on which a man identified as the Clippers owner made racial remarks so powerful that even President Obama felt compelled to respond during a trip to Malaysia.
Clippers players, who were told by Rivers before Sunday’s game not to comment on the situation, made a silent protest during warmups about 20 minutes before the opening tip. They circled in the midcourt area of Oracle Arena and threw their Clippers warmup jackets on the ground, exposing team warmup T-shirts that were turned inside-out to hide any reference to the team Sterling owns.
Some have speculated — and even suggested — Clippers fans might make their own statement toward Sterling by staying away Tuesday. Though the Clippers refused to use the controversy as an excuse Sunday, the distractions don’t appear to be going away.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what it is going to be like,” standout point guard Chris Paul said of the reception the Clippers will receive in Game 5. “Our fans have been amazing all season long, and obviously I hope that it will be the same. You just never know.”
Shortly after the Clippers’ pregame display, the Warriors stole the spotlight. Starting a smaller lineup that featured 6-foot-7 forward Draymond Green in place of 6-11 center Jermaine O’Neal, Golden State sent its crowd into a frenzy with a 25-10 flurry over the first 5:58, with Curry and backcourt mate Klay Thompson combining for 19 points and five 3-pointers.
“We came out with a sense of urgency. That’s been a big problem in the first three games,” Curry said. “We moved the ball well and set good screens, but most important we executed at a higher pace. When we do that, it’s tough to guard.”
The Clippers were never a serious threat thereafter, although they did have a chance to close within single digits in the fourth quarter. With Los Angeles down 100-90 and still almost six minutes to play, star power forward Blake Griffin missed from the interior and shooting guard J.J. Redick misfired from the perimeter.
When Curry nailed his seventh 3-pointer on Golden State’s next possession, the Clippers’ last hope was dashed.
“They were playing great,” Rivers said. “Once the game starts, there’s no excuses not to play and to play like we played.
“That’s my fault. It really is. Whatever the distractions, I gotta do a better job. I didn’t do my job tonight.”
Curry, who was held to six 3-pointers on 21 attempts in the first three games of the series, went 7-for-14 from long range during his 33-point outing. He also found time for seven assists and a team-high seven rebounds.
Curry got plenty of help. Small forward Andre Iguodala (22 points), Thompson (15), power forward David Lee (15) and backup swingman Harrison Barnes (15) also scored in double figures for the Warriors, who shot 55.4 percent overall and 46.9 percent from 3-point range.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson singled out Iguodala as having had his best game of the series. The first-year Warrior added a team-high nine assists to his series-high point total.
“He was spectacular. I thought this was some of his best work in a Warrior uniform,” Jackson said of Iguodala.
“He said to me at the end of Game 3: ‘We’re going to get Game 4.’ It was a throwaway line, but he was sincere. Total, top to bottom, big-time game for him.”