By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
LOS ANGELES – About 11:15 Saturday night, Jamal Crawford was sitting in front of his stall in the Clipper locker room deep inside Staples Center, both feet and ankles in a bucket of water and melting ice cubes up to mid-shin and both knees wrapped with ice packs, a common post-game look for a player.
The first-round series against the Warriors was finally over after 15 days, the max seven games and the last one at 2 hours, 50 minutes without overtime. The Donald Sterling firestorm had drained energy from both sides. The underdog opponent that refused to act like it took more out of the Clippers. And then they had to go down to the final minute of the final contest to determine a winner in the first round.
“I’m exhausted,” Crawford conceded. “And everybody is. Not just physically, but mentally.”
The Clippers needed to call a 20-day timeout.
They got a few hours instead.
No sooner had they dispatched the Warriors 126-121 in a gripping Game 7 than players walked from the court to the locker room and received the scouting report on the Thunder and saw the departure time for the flight to Oklahoma City written in black ink on the white dry-erase board on one of the walls. Take the booklets home and start reading, coach Doc Rivers said, later jokingly calling it homework. And be ready to take off at noon Sunday.
The Thunder would have a similar quick turnaround from playing Game 7 on Saturday night, in their case against the Grizzlies, to the Western Conference semifinals opening Monday night, except that Oklahoma City didn’t have travel as an additional layer. Even the relatively easy trip, a little more than 2 ½ hours if all goes according to plan, is a factor at a time in their lives when, actually, there is no such thing as easy for the Clippers.
“It’s tough,” Rivers said.
There’s not much quiet time during the series, either. Unlike the first round that included two instances of two days off between games and the benefit of the breeze of travel of one-hour hops, Thunder-Clippers will be longer flights and games every other day until the two-day break between the potential Games 6 and 7.
“We have the best training staff in the league,” Chris Paul said. “I believe that. I’m not just saying that. Jasen Powell and all the other guys, we have the best training staff in the league. We’ll fly to Oklahoma (on Sunday), maybe Blake will have us at his house or something like that, and we’ll be ready to play on Monday.”
The Clippers have business in the hostile territory of Loud City, the apt nickname for Chesapeake Energy Arena, on Monday and Wednesday. Blake Griffin as an Oklahoma native will have to do for a comfort zone, for now and maybe for a while.