Sports

Clippers feel the love

Inspired by their fans, LA's players turn it on and are on the brink of a play-off series win

LA CLIPPERS 113

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 103

(Clippers lead series 3-2)

The Los Angeles Clippers, buoyed by the NBA's tough action against owner Donald Sterling, beat the Golden State Warriors yesterday morning (Singapore time) to grab the lead in their first-round play-off series.

Clippers coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers said the controversy that erupted over racially charged remarks by Sterling, which became public at the weekend, had left his players drained.

But with the rapturous support of home fans they came through for a 113-103 triumph over the Warriors that gave them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference series.

"I was really proud of them," Rivers said. "I thought you could see them getting tired from all the emotional baggage over the last four days."

DeAndre Jordan scored 25 points and pulled down 18 rebounds for the Clippers. Blake Griffin added 18 points and seven rebounds while Chris Paul finished with 20 points and seven assists.

The game came hours after NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from all NBA participation for life, fined him US$2.5 million and called on other NBA owners to vote to force him to sell the team.

"I think it put a lot of guys' minds at ease," Paul said, of Silver's tough stance. But nothing prepared them for the welcome they received from their fans.

"When we ran out for warm-ups, it was one of the most emotional things I've ever been a part of," Paul said. "We have a tough locker room, all of us are tough. But it almost brought tears to your eyes ... to feel the support of our fans. I wasn't sure what we would come back to."

Clippers fans had also felt the weight of Sterling's transgressions, wondering how to back the team while knowing the owner would reap the most financial rewards from their support.

Clippers season ticket holder Andy Mendoza said he "definitely would have" had second thoughts about attending the game if Silver hadn't acted as he did.

The NBA sanctions give him confidence, Mendoza said, that Sterling "will get what he deserves toward the end."

Many fans at Staples Center carried signs alluding to the turmoil.

"Hate will never win," said one, another: "Rise above".

"Love the Players", one T-shirt slogan urged - the back of the shirt adding, "Hate the Owner".

Rivers acknowledged that the ban of Sterling left him in an odd position, with no one to turn to about the needs of his team.

'RIGHT DECISION'

However, he said it was the "right decision" and he urged all to remain patient as the situation was resolved.

In the meantime, his players will try to keep their focus on basketball, and their chance to wrap up the series in Game 6 in Oakland tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

"It was amazing how the crowd was tonight," Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.

"(But) all that means nothing really if we come out and lose. So I thought we did a good job of locking it in and doing what we're supposed to do." - AFP.

Other first round play-off results (all series best-of-seven):

Eastern Conference

  • Washington Wizards 75 Chicago Bulls 69 (Washington win series 4-1)

Western Conference

  • Memphis Grizzlies 100 Oklahoma City Thunder 99 (OT) (Memphis lead series 3-2)