OAKLAND, Calif. -- The smiles had returned to the faces of the Los Angeles Clippers' players by the time they took the court at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Thursday morning before playing Game 6 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors.
All the talk of the past week regarding racist comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his subsequent lifetime ban from the NBA had been washed away and replaced by the jokes and the usual teasing that had come to define the team this season.
“They're in a better spirit, there's no doubt,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They're actually joking again. They're making jokes about their coach again. I think that's good.”
The focus for the first time since Friday was again on basketball, which was a good thing for the players on the court, even if the action on the court didn’t always look playoff-worthy.
How it happened: The Clippers jumped out quickly to a nine-point lead, but it was erased in the next stanza by the Warriors, who took an eight-point lead by the second quarter. It was a back-and-forth game through three quarters that saw eight ties and five lead changes before the Warriors took control in the fourth. The Warriors never trailed in the final period but had to escape in the end as the Clippers made a late push.
What it means: This series, like many expected before it began, will go seven games, with the decisive Game 7 taking place on Saturday in Los Angeles.
Hits: On a night when Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan struggled offensively, the Clippers were kept in the game largely by Matt Barnes and Redick, who combined for 33 points. The "Big Three" of Griffin, Paul and Jordan, meanwhile, posted 36 points between them. Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison had 31 combined points off the bench. Though Jordan struggled on offense, he did have 19 rebounds and four blocks.
Misses: Paul was battling injuries to his left hamstring and hand while in foul trouble (five). Griffin was in trouble early and fouled out for the second time this series. When those two players struggle, the Clippers always will have a hard time pulling out a win, especially in a close-out game on the road.
Stat of the game: For the second time this series, the referees controlled the flow, as 52 fouls were called and 70 foul shots were taken. That’s never a good recipe for pretty basketball.
Up next: The Clippers will take on the Warriors in Game 7 of their first-round series at 7:30 p.m. PT Saturday at Staples Center.