LOS ANGELES (AP) Jamal Crawford got emotional in accepting his NBA Sixth Man award and, like Kevin Durant this week, it may have buoyed the Los Angeles Clippers in what has been a turbulent playoffs so far.
Crawford didn’t cry or talk as long as Durant did when the Oklahoma City star picked up the league’s MVP award. But he thanked everyone he could think of on Thursday, especially his teammates and Clippers coach Doc Rivers for keeping them together in the wake of owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments that led to his lifetime ban from the NBA.
Crawford’s award was some of the best news the Clippers have had in the last 1 1/2 weeks, and the feel-good atmosphere during his acceptance speech could provide some necessary fuel heading into Game 3 against the Thunder on Friday night at Staples Center. The Western Conference semifinal series is tied 1-1.
Durant’s widely replayed, touching speech in which he credited his single mother for keeping their family together through tough times gave the Thunder an emotional boost going into Game 2. They responded with a 112-101 victory that wasn’t as close as the score suggested.
“They just beat us in every way,” Rivers said.
Now the Clippers will be out to grab back the momentum. First, they’ll have to contain Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Durant had 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and Westbrook had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to help the Thunder outrebound the Clippers for the second straight game.
“We have to take that and then add to that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “You can’t be satisfied. The intensity as the series goes along improves and it becomes greater, and we have to make the next jump.”
Rivers’ staff always asks him what his biggest fear is going into a game. His response before Game 2 was Westbrook’s offensive rebounding.
“Then he comes up with six of them,” Rivers said. “We can box him out. We got to keep him off the glass.”
With his teammates cheering him and playfully mocking the suit and tie he wore, Crawford accepted his trophy as the league’s best reserve. He averaged 18.6 points as the NBA’s top-scoring reserve this season, and the Clippers will need his offense after he was held to seven points on 2-of-13 shooting in Game 3.
The Thunder’s defense didn’t allow Crawford room to operate. J.J. Redick, who finished with 18 points, was another key focal point for Oklahoma City.
“You’re talking about two of the quickest triggers in basketball in Redick and Crawford,” Brooks said. “I thought our guys did a good job of closing that gap.”
Both teams took Thursday off, when the Clippers heard that Sterling’s estranged wife Shelly wants to retain her 50 percent ownership stake in the team as the NBA tries to force new ownership on the franchise.
Mrs. Sterling’s attorney said she hasn’t been asked to stay away from games and she plans to attend Friday.
Rivers brushed off the latest chatter, something he’s done since the scandal broke.
“We need to be uneasy about Westbrook and Durant,” he said. “That’s who we need to be really uneasy about because they’re putting more pressure on us right now.”
AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
Updated May 8, 2014