Green: 'This group has a lot to be proud of'
In the end, the right thing happened because there was no wrong thing. The right team won because neither team was wrong. Both the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors excelled in their own hilariously mutant ways – it’s just that the Clippers were a little more excellent at the end.
In sum, Los Angeles’ 126-121 victory over Golden State in Game 7 of this Western Conference quarterfinal will be remembered whether you like it or not as a great moment in both franchises’ histories. Both teams overcame the immolation of Donald Sterling to produce a masterwork of entertainment through tension, one that both teams will remember and grow from if they have any sense of propriety at all.
[RELATED: Instant Replay: Warriors come up short, lose Game 7 to Clippers]
Oh, and don’t ask about Mark Jackson today. It’s way too soon to ask for mundane tasks like a front office peeling the skin off its own face.
No, this game should resound on its own merits, and even for Warrior fans, who only got seven extra games this year, this should be remembered as this franchise’s grow-up game.
Jackson covered all the rhetorical bases – pride, heart, compete level (ecch), the dreaded “process” – but he didn’t really have to. The Warriors, playing without center Andrew Bogut and with only minimal contributions from the injured Jermaine O’Neal, played a demonstrably superior team to within 56 seconds of elimination. The franchise hadn’t had a seventh game of any kind in more than 30 years, but this one ought to hold it for awhile.
And it ought to hold Joe Lacob as well. The itchy owner who had grandiose and unmet dreams has been one of the twin suns with Jackson in a long-rolling debate on organizational prerogatives, which is somehow supposed to end in either a coaching change or some king-hell negotiations on a new contract.
After this game, though, that should be held in abeyance while everyone gets their fill of this night in specific and this fortnight in general. It will take that long for even the deepest of insiders to fully comprehend it.
And if they need the help, the victorious coach explained it for them.
“Listen, they were great,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Mark Jackson is a terrific coach. They had injuries, and he got his guys to compete. They were very difficult out of time outs, they were very hard to defend, they had shot makers . . . I thought the game was over three times, then (Stephen) Curry makes a crazy shot. And Draymond Green was great the entire series.”
Curry ended with 33, Green 24 and seven rebounds, and the unlikely Jordan Crawford and Marreese Speights contributed well beyond their season portfolios. On the other hand, they committed 18 turnovers, hit a third period wall when they lost an eight-point halftime lead, and couldn’t regain control of the game down the stretch.
They were the consummately live six-seed, scaring a more powerful but still vulnerable three-seed. They ran the tank down to E, but the Clippers still had some fumes left. They got 20-plus from Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick, and center DeAndre Jordan was simply extraordinary (15 points, 18 rebounds, and the resounding dunks with 1:15 and 22 seconds left that really ended the game).
And in fairness, the Clippers deserved to win just because overcoming the specter of Sterling required a reward. Golden State dearly wanted this series. Los Angeles NEEDED it.
That is not a compelling argument for Warrior fans, nor does it need to be. On the other hand, the Clippers’ extraordinary kick down the stretch helps contextualize how much the Warriors challenged them, and how they are even more a team than they were after losing to San Antonio a year ago.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Jackson said in what has become his Clippers Litany, “two of the top 10 players in the world, the sixth man of the year, a future Hall Of Fame coach, a dynamite big man . . . we battled and took a team that had everybody to a seventh game . . . the league and the organization should be extremely proud.”
That ought to be good enough for a few days anyway. Then we can all regather around the “What happens to Jackson?” story, the one that will keep us warm as spring turns to summer, the one we’ve been gearing for since last summer.
Until then, the game stands on its own, and so does the series. This was a defeat but not a loss unless the Warriors want to make it one, and the fact that nobody got cheated in the end should never be forgotten.
At least until the 15th of the month, anyway.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.