The Los Angeles Clippers became the center of the NBA playoffs this weekend, but not because of their play. The Clippers are now much bigger than one NBA playoff series because of their owner, and how they and the league will react to him. Yet after Donald Sterling's team turned their warm-up jerseys inside out and threw their jackets to the ground, as their initial protest to his alleged racist audio tape, the Golden State Warriors did all the talking during their actual Game 4 on April 27.
The Clippers never stood a chance in a game that not everyone thought they should have played. Instead of boycotting the game to make the NBA take the team from Sterling, despite the ongoing league investigation, the Clippers played and were blown out by 118-97.
Even coach Doc Rivers told his team on the sidelines that they "weren't here" as the firestorm from Sterling's audio tirade appeared to be too much. The Warriors did their part by scorching the nets in the opening quarter, as Stephen Curry caught fire for the first time in the series. He hit five of his seven three-pointers in the first eight-and-a-half minutes, starting a first half where Golden State scored 66 points.
Los Angeles cut the deficit to single digits for a brief time in the fourth quarter. Yet the Warriors finished Game 4 as hot as they started it, stretching the lead back to 20+ points by the end. It was almost a mirror image of Game 2, when the Clippers blew out the Warriors by 40 points after losing Game 1 in the final moments.
At any other moment, the Warriors coming back so decisively after a tough Game 3 loss, and setting the stage for a best-of-three finish, would be a big story by itself. But none of the buzz over Game 5 in Los Angeles on April 29 is about basketball.
The NBA playoffs as a whole may be an afterthought for a while, depending on if Sterling is punished before Tuesday night -- and what that punishment is. If it isn't enough, then fans in Los Angeles who show up may need to speak out on their own.
In that worst case scenario, the questions on whether the Clippers should even show up will resume. But they didn't seem to show up after their protest yesterday anyway.