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A Game 7: Spurs-Clippers Series Deserves Nothing Less

A Game 7: Spurs-Clippers Series Deserves Nothing Less

Blake Griffin, center, managed to keep his balance after getting a rebound against the Spurs. Griffin scored 26 points in Game 6. Credit Darren Abate/Associated Press

 

SAN ANTONIO — Doc Rivers had two large problems. Seconds into the fourth quarter at AT&T Center on Thursday night, Glen Davis of the Los Angeles Clippers sprained his left ankle and hopped several times on one leg in apparent agony before tumbling like an industrial-size sack of potatoes.

Rivers, the Clippers’ coach, knew that his long-term problem would have to wait — the fact that one of his more reliable reserves on an alarmingly short bench was now injured. There was nothing Rivers could do about that.

The short-term problem was of greater concern. Rivers needed someone (or several someones, more likely) to remove Davis’s 290-pound body from its position on the baseline before the officials forced the Clippers to use one of their timeouts. Rivers anticipated that he would need them against the Spurs.

“That’s not a normal guy to scoop off the floor,” Rivers said (it was his way of saying that Davis was not small). “But we would’ve burned that timeout, and that’s why I was screaming.”

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Austin Rivers was fouled by Tim Duncan in the first half of Thursday’s Game 6. Credit Larry W. Smith/European Pressphoto Agency

Game 6 of this extraordinary first-round playoff series was full of small moments that loomed large. Safely transporting Davis to the bench was merely one of them as the Clippers engineered a 102-96 victory that preserved their postseason hopes and ensured a Game 7, scheduled for Saturday night at Staples Center.

“This team is mentally tough, but we’ve got to come through it again,” Rivers said. “This series in some ways should go seven. It’s just right. That’s what should happen in this series.”

It is almost a shame that one of these teams will lose this weekend. As the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford observed, the Clippers and the Spurs could just as easily be meeting in the conference finals, a tribute to the strength and balance of the West this season.

Look no further than the Oklahoma City Thunder for a reminder of its perils.

Despite finishing eight games above .500, the Thunder failed to qualify for the postseason and then fired their coach. The conference is a kiln. So pull up a chair, Billy Donovan, and enjoy life as a spectator for a few weeks longer.

In the Clippers’ locker room about 20 minutes after the game, a track by Jay Z was playing on a small set of speakers, the volume turned way up. Blake Griffin, who had been fighting a cold in recent days, sat in a chair with his knees wrapped in ice. Leon Rose, a high-profile agent, visited with Chris Paul at his locker.

In front of a large whiteboard that doubled as a historical document — the words “Have Fun!” were scrawled in the lower right corner, a remnant from the team’s pregame talk — players spoke with reporters about resolve and focus and urgency, familiar playoff tropes that actually mean something here.

If the Spurs, as defending champions, are trying to sustain something special, the Clippers, after three straight premature playoff exits, are hoping to finally meet expectations.

“A lot of us on our team have been watching these guys since we were kids,” Paul said of the Spurs. “You see them doing the same thing over and over again.”

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