LOS ANGELES — Rare are the days when all of the capital moments of sports are compounded together within the confines of one day. That‚Äôs what we have upon us on Saturday; Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, the fight between the undefeated fiend Floyd Mayweather and the good but only by default Manny Pacquiao, the Kentucky Derby and Red Sox-Yankees in case there is any time left.
There is also the NHL Playoff series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals that starts at 9:30 a.m., but who is honestly going to wake up that early on a Saturday morning?
Game 7 is the culmination of an entire season and playoff series that reaches its climax in front of everyone to see in amazement. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers says he doesn‚Äôt believe in motivational tactics, but felt like handing out pages to his players each filled with cut-and-pasted media predictions for their first round series. You know, just because he felt like they should catch up on their daily reading.
“We‚Äôre probably one of the most hated teams in the league but that drives us,” said small forward Matt Barnes in his assessment of the prediction page. “It fuels us to know that 46 out of 47 people picked us to lose. That‚Äôs the kind of fire we need to just reassure us that that there‚Äôs no time to be comfortable. This team has got what it takes to win a championship and we just have to go prove it now.”
I‚Äôm either the one out of 47 who picked the Clippers to beat the Spurs or I‚Äôm one of two out of 48 and Rivers didn‚Äôt include me. If you need to be caught up on the events that occurred in this series leading up to Saturday‚Äôs showdown, just look at Clippers owner Steve Ballmer during Game 6, where his emotions rode up and down like an actual Clipper weathering the stormy seas.
“It has been entertaining,” Clippers star Blake Griffin said. “Even to experience three losses. No matter what happens the first three quarters, it seems like the fourth quarter, with the exception of Game 3, it‚Äôs almost anybody‚Äôs game. It has been a lot of fun to play in.”
It can‚Äôt be a worthy Game 7 without a personal connection to it. Enter point guard Chris Paul, who has opposed the Spurs in a Game 7 before. As a 22-year-old point guard, Paul had the entire rebuilding city of New Orleans riding his shoulders as he stood in the way of a less grizzled Spurs team and their fourth NBA title. The homeliness of his home court wasn‚Äôt enough of an aid for him and his Hornets that day, and he‚Äôs been thinking about it eight years leading up to his next opportunity.
“I remember a lot about it,” Paul said. “I actually watch it every now and then. I watch some of the plays from it. It was a different team then and a different time then and a different situation.”
Paul and his budding big stars are facing the pillars of success in a winner-take-all in their home court. As withering as they may seem now, only until they are defeated honorably in battle will Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker finally rest peacefully as their bodies turn into monuments.
The Spurs’ winning tradition has already been passed down to¬†Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli, but it remains to be seen that they can do it without their watchful eyes.
With 8.2 assists per game in the postseason, Paul is second only to John Wall of the Washington Wizards. He, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan continue to keep their name among the best in the game at what they do statistically.
But when action is at play, math gets the hell out of the way.
“I don‚Äôt care,” Paul said. “In the playoffs, this means nothing. You win or lose.”
Tony Capobianco started the SMDP column “Cap Space” just in time for the 2014-15 Clippers season. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.