Clippers, Doc Rivers try to focus past Sterling distraction, but they know there is more to come

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LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers would much prefer to focus on basketball.

Instead the fallout from the Donald Sterling fiasco keeps landing in his lap.

At the press conference he is required to give just more than 90 minutes before his team tips off in a crucial Game 3 of their playoff series with the Thunder, the first question Rivers is asked is about Richard Parsons — the league appointed CEO who will run the Clippers until the ownership situation with Donald and Shelly Sterling is sorted out.

“We did talk a couple times, (Friday) morning we did talk and it was really nice,” Rivers said. “I don’t know Dick very well, but from what I heard from everyone who knows him and talking to him today I think he’s a very good hire for us.”

And so it went through the press conference, questions alternating between how the Clippers will try to get Blake Griffin going or defend Kevin Durant, and then how he and the players are dealing with the fallout of team owner Donald Sterling being suspended for life and the franchise being in limbo in the wake of a tape of racist comments he made being leaked. The league has started the process to force the Sterlings to sell the team, both Donald and his wife have separately said they will fight this.

When asked if the appointment of Parsons as CEO allowed him and the team to move on and just focus on hoops, Rivers gave an honest answer.

“I would love to feel that way but we all know that’s not true,” Rivers said. “But from my standpoint we’re focusing on basketball and if something else comes up it comes up and you just gotta deal with it. But it’s not like I’m going to sit around and wait for it to come, I’m going to sit around and coach my team. Then if something comes up you just deal with it. That’s basically what I’ve told our guys. You know what? Life happens. And you just got to deal with it.”

It seems every day there is a new revelation, a new addition to the story. The latest is a second recording of Sterling’s comments (this one taped by a “friend” if his) where he basically says he made those racist comments because he wanted to sleep with mistress V. Stiviano (let’s just call it an odd relationship and leave it at that), and also that the league can’t force him to sell (the league has seeming solid legal footing on him, his wife may be a different story).

While interest in the initial shocking story may be subsiding some there are more waves to come — the league’s owners likely will vote to strip Sterling of the team this summer, then there will be the lawsuits to block it all.

Then there is Shelly Sterling — who attended the game Friday night at Staples Center — saying she is going to fight to keep the team in the family (she owns half the team in a trust with Donald). Magic Johnson went public Friday telling the USA Today the players will not play for Shelly — he is both right and self serving in that. Right because members of the players’ union have basically said as much (and other reports have players saying that privately). Rivers has said he’s not sure if he’ll return if she still owns the team next year. All that said, for Magic — who with his business partners wants to buy the team — to come out and say something pushing the team’s sale is clearly him promoting his own self interests.

Rivers and the players are still caught in the middle.

“It’s still a very murky situation and I don’t think that’s going to change for a while. It is what it is and we’re going to deal with it,” Rivers said.

Rivers is doing his best to shield his players on this, to take the questions and deflect the attention, to let them actually focus on the games. How well that is working is up for debate, but Rivers is certainly doing all anyone could ask.

But he knows, the players know, this is not going to end soon. It almost certainly will follow them into next season if it heads into the courts as the Sterlings have promised.

And that’s not going to let him or his players just focus on basketball.

Will Chris Paul play in Game 7?

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The way Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry were shooting it probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome of Game 6, but the Houston Rockets missed Chris Paul. They missed his steadying influence on offense, and maybe more importantly on defense — Curry was directing the offense, creating space with his handles then finding people cutting off the ball and draining threes. Paul may have been able to help keep Curry in relative check.

Which all leads to this big question: Will Paul suit up and play in Game 7.

Doesn’t sound like it.

I would describe the mood of sources I spoke to on this issues as pessimistic on CP3’s chances of play.

If Paul can at all go, he will. Three years ago Paul played through a hamstring injury to lead the Clippers past the Spurs, he’ll want to do it again.

This is different. For one thing, Paul is older now, his body will not bounc he is at all limited with his movement the Warriors will target him with Curry and Klay Thompson, try to get CP3 moving laterally and exploiting him. It might now work to put him out there.

But if he can go, D’Antoni will try.

Watch best of Klay Thompson’s nine threes, 35-point night

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Stephen Curry is a better shooter. Kevin Durant is a better scorer with a bigger toolbox.

But no Warrior can get as white-hot as Klay Thompson.

He did that on Saturday night helping the Warriors to a Game 6 win, getting his rhythm and becoming a scoring machine in the second half, finishing with 35 points including hitting 9-of-14 from three, and having six rebounds. He was just as important on the other end of the floor.

“I thought Klay was amazing tonight, not just for 35 points and the nine threes, but his defense,” Coach Steve Kerr said. “The guy’s a machine. He’s just so fit physically. He seems to thrive in these situations. But he was fantastic.”

Thompson will need to bring some of that Heat in Game 7 on the road if the Warriors are going to head back to the NBA Finals.

Backs against wall down 17, Warriors crank up defense, rain threes, force Game 7

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Warriors’ fans have been asking one question since the season tipped off in October:

What is it going to take to get Golden State to truly focus and play up to their potential?

Apparently, the answer is going down 17 to the Houston Rockets in a playoff elimination game.

Houston entered Oracle Saturday night playing smart and with energy, defending as they had the previous two games and then turning that into transition buckets and threes — eight of them in the first quarter. Houston was up 17 in the first and 10 at the half.

However, Golden State had started to defend better in the second quarter and they cranked up the intensity to the level fans had hoped to see in the second half — Houston scored 39 points in the first quarter and 47 combined in the final three. The Warriors were also forcing turnovers, 21.3 percent of Rockets possessions ended with a turnover (more than one in five trips down the court). Houston had 25 points in the second half and shot 2-of-9 from three in the third quarter.

At the same time, Klay Thompson led an onslaught of threes for Golden State (Thompson had 9 threes on the night). The Warriors defense turned into offense.

The result was a dramatic turnaround and a 115-86 Golden State win, tying the Western Conference Finals at 3-3.

Game 7 is in Houston Monday night. Winner advances to the NBA Finals.

“Effort. Intensity. Passion,” Thompson said of the Warriors’ second-half surge. “When we do that, and we rotate, and we help each other we’re the best defensive team in the league.”

While it was their defense that sparked everything, the Warriors also found an offense that worked against the Rockets’ switching defense — more Stephen Curry with the ball in his hands. There are a few ways to counter a switching defense and one is a creative ballhandler who can still make plays — not just isolation plays, but who can create a little space and find guys moving off the ball despite the pressure. Curry was that guy, he was the Warriors best all-around player on the night. He had a high IQ game and added 29 points. With the offense not running through Kevin Durant isolations, it just flowed better (the Warriors best lineup of the night was Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and Nick Young, +13 in just more than eight minutes).

It just took a lot of pressure from a Rockets team to get Golden State into that mental frame of mind.

Houston opened this game with the same defensive energy they had the last two games, and once again it flustered the Golden State offense. Except, this time the Rockets did a much better job of turning those misses and turnovers into transition points (the Rockets averaged two points per possession on the break in the first half). Throw in some terrible defensive communication errors by the Warriors, and the Rockets were raining threes in the first half — 11-of-22, with Gordon going 4-of-4.

The Warriors had some success with an ultra-small lineup that unleashed Curry, but as soon as non-shooters were on the floor — Kevon Looney, Jordon Bell, and the Rockets were daring Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston to shoot — Houston shrunk the floor and took away passing lanes, plus contested every shot.

In the second half, the Warriors used that Curry energy and hit their threes to pull away. The Warriors were at their best with Bell as the fifth man with the four All-Stars, he brought an energy and athleticism that made things flow on both ends. Don’t be shocked if he starts Game 7 for Golden State.

If the Warriors pack up that second half energy with them and take it to Houston, there is not much the Rockets will be able to do. But do not expect these gritty, feisty Rockets to go quietly into that good night.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.