Clippers miss opportunity, head home to settle series vs. Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. — Seven games seems about right, doesn’t it?

The Clippers and the Golden State Warriors were headed in this direction all along, and now they’ll settle their first-round playoff series Saturday night, with a deciding Game 7 at Staples Center.

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"This is why you work so hard to get the highest seed possible, to get home court in situations like these," Blake Griffin said.

Now they have it, but not without a big dose of regret that they let one get away.

With a chance to close out their best-of-seven series against the Warriors on Thursday night, the Clippers instead lost the little battles and the game, 100-99, at Oracle Arena. So they’re going back home, to a place coach Doc Rivers calls their "safe haven."

In a crazy week that resulted in the lifetime ban of their owner, Donald Sterling, for making racially charged comments, the Clippers at least know that Staples is a place where their fans still embrace and support them.

They’ll need it.

We’ve got to let this one go and get ready for Game 7

-- Chris Paul

"It’s going to be great to be at home," Rivers said. "We’ll be back in our safe haven, and the fans will give us great energy. But you’ve still got to perform, and that’s the bottom line."

They’ll need to wipe away Thursday’s loss, which was hardly epic for either team. Both shot below 40 percent, both missed free throws, both struggled defensively. But the Warriors always seemed to come up with the big play, and the Clippers didn’t.

"We made a lot of mistakes offensively and defensively," guard Darren Collison said, "but it’s going to come down to Saturday."

In their locker room afterward, the Clippers were a collective picture of frustration. Center DeAndre Jordan sat silently at his locker for several minutes, looking forlorn. Barnes hobbled toward the showers. Chris Paul tried to soothe his wounds – a sore right hamstring that limited his movement and a left thumb that clearly bothered him.

"He’s dealing with a lot of stuff," Rivers said, "but listen, he’s on the floor and Golden State doesn’t care, bottom line. He does have injuries, there’s no doubt about that. I’m sure they have some too, but once you’re on the floor you’re on the floor."

Paul is worn down, but he’s not about to admit it or give up. He played almost 34 minutes and made just 3 of 10 shots, but Rivers praised his work on the defensive end.

"I’m OK," Paul said. "Tough game, bumps and bruises. You get through it."

Even with all their troubles, the Clippers still had a chance to pull out the game in the final minutes despite losing Griffin and J.J. Redick to fouls.

This is why you work so hard to get the highest seed possible, to get home court in situations like these

-- Blake Griffin

They closed to within two points, 98-96, when Jamal Crawford’s alley-oop pass to Jordan resulted in a dunk with 1 minutes 43 seconds left.

But moments later, Redick was called for a questionable foul on Harrison Barnes, who made both free throws.

Paul’s drive through the lane, which would have made it a two-point game again, failed to drop, but the Clips still got the ball back after a bad pass by Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who scored 24 points but was just 9 of 24 shooting.

They had three shots to get close, but all three missed: a layup by Collison, a three-pointer by Crawford and another three by Collison.

By the time Barnes scored on a 26-footer, there were only 2.5 seconds left. Paul then fouled Curry, who missed both free throws, but the Warriors got the rebound.

"Any time you lose guys are down, guys are mad and upset," Paul said. "You always try to run through your mind what you could have done differently. But we’ve got to let this one go and get ready for Game 7."

At least they have that: Game 7 Saturday at Staples.