After emerging from their locker room, they took off their warm-up jerseys featuring the Clippers logo and dropped them in the center-court circle, then went through pregame drills wearing plain red T-shirts worn inside out. Once the game started, the Clippers also sported black arm or wrist bands as well as black socks.
But the Clippers’ show of collective purpose ended there. The Warriors delivered a 39-point first quarter belt in the mouth, and despite a few second-half runs, L.A. never got off the deck. (Doc) Rivers wasn’t completely sure the distractions of Sterling’s alleged racial comments undermined his team’s performance, but knew they didn’t help.
“Listen, it could have,” he said. “I’m not going to deny we had other stuff. I just believe when the game starts, the game starts and nobody cares anymore. Golden State certainly didn’t care. It’s like when a player plays with an injury. They don’t care they’re injured, they’re going to come out and try to attack you.”
“There was a lot going on today, and unfortunately, besides all the peripheral stuff, we played a team that played a great basketball game,” said guard J.J. Redick. “It was by far their best game of the series on both sides of the ball.”
Rivers said the pregame demonstration was a players-only call, and while he was aware what was going to happen, “I wasn’t thrilled about it, to be honest. But if that’s what they want to do, that’s what they want to do.”
“It was just talked about as a team,” said Clippers point guard Chris Paul. “At the end of the day, it had nothing to do with the game.”
“I know I can get to them, I know they want to do right,” the coach said. “And like I told them, the game’s on me. My fault. It’s my job getting these guys ready to play basketball, and I didn’t do my job. And if it’s because of the other thing, it’s still my fault. It really is.”
The one thing the Clippers have going for them is that they still have home-court advantage even though the series is now tied 2-2. But going back to an uncertain environment at Los Angeles’ Staples Center as a result of the backlash toward Sterling, the team doesn’t quite know what to expect.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what it’s going to be like,” said Paul. “Our fans have been amazing all season and obviously I hope that it will be the same. But you just never know.”
Rivers expressed the same sentiment, noting, “We’re going home now. Usually that would mean a safe haven. And I don’t even know if that’s true, to be honest.”
The Blazers decided they would not stand silently during the controversy. In a movement organized in part by LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers, who normally wear white socks, decided to go with black against the Rockets on Sunday night at the Moda Center.
“I just wanted to do something to support our brothers,” (LaMarcus) Aldridge said of his role in organizing the movement.