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Hours after owner's ban, L.A. Clippers unite in emotional win against Warriors

By Faith Karimi and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Wed April 30, 2014
  • Fans cheer and chant "We are One" as the team defeats the Golden State Warriors
  • Hours before, Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been banned from the NBA
  • "It was almost like everybody wanted to exhale tonight," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers says

(CNN) -- First came the revelations, then the anger, then the resounding victory.

After an emotional few days, the Los Angeles Clippers emerged from a dark cloud with a much-needed playoff win Tuesday night.

Fans cheered and chanted "We are One" as the team defeated the Golden State Warriors, 113-103.

Hours before, Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been banned for life from the NBA for racist remarks revealed over the weekend. The focus now turns to whether Sterling will sell the team, something he indicated he would not do -- but that was before he was banned.

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With the Clippers' win, an ugly situation turned into a rebirth. The team lived up to the impromptu "We are One" slogan, printed in stark, black-and-white letters on its website.

"You think it's just the players; it's the fans, too. Everybody was going through this," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said after the game.

"It was almost like everybody wanted to exhale tonight, and it was good."

Audio of Sterling's conversation with a female friend was released Friday night, triggering a firestorm that led to his lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver detailed Sterling's punishment at a news conference eight hours before the Clippers' fifth game of the playoff series with the Warriors.

NBA owners, players and others had called for swift, firm punishment since TMZ posted the audio featuring the incendiary comments.

"I hope that every bigot in this country sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so can you," said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star. Johnson led the players union's efforts on this matter.

Under the lifetime ban, Sterling is prohibited from NBA games or practices, stepping foot inside any Clippers facility, taking part in business or personnel decisions, or having a role in league activities such as attending NBA Board of Governors meetings.

Silver said he'd do anything in his power to compel the NBA Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.

He said he was hopeful he'd get the needed three-quarters of the league's owners -- meaning at least 23 -- to back the move. Sterling could fight any such move in court.

Before the punishment was announced, Jim Gray of Fox News reported that he spoke with Sterling and that the owner told him the team is not for sale. At the time, Sterling did not know what his fate would be.

Silver did not lay out a detailed timetable for action but said the league would start using its advisory finance committee to bring the issue before the owners "immediately."

If Sterling does sell the team, he'd profit considerably: He bought the Clippers for $12 million in 1981, and the team is now worth $575 million, according to Forbes magazine.

'Now the healing process begins'

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Sterling's inflammatory sentiments came packaged in a 10-minute recording that TMZ said occurred during an April 9 conversation with his girlfriend V. Stiviano.

On the recording, a man and woman argue about photos posted to Instagram in which she appears with African-Americans. The man says he doesn't want the woman bringing any black people to games with her.

The sports website Deadspin on Sunday posted five additional minutes of what it said was part of the same audio recording.

Neither website has said how it obtained the recordings; the law firm representing Stiviano said she didn't release them to TMZ.

Clippers President Andy Roeser suggested Saturday that the audio was aimed at "getting even" with Sterling over a lawsuit.

Last month, Rochelle Sterling filed a lawsuit against Stiviano, who she said was having an affair with her husband. She accused her of going after extremely wealthy older men.

Roeser said that the offensive comments are "not consistent with, nor does it reflect (Sterling's) views, beliefs or feelings." At the time, he cast doubt on whether Sterling made the comments.

Silver expressed no such doubts Tuesday, saying the Clippers owner "acknowledged it was his voice on the tape." Asked whether he expressed any remorse, the commissioner said, "Mr. Sterling has not expressed those views directly to me."

The Clippers applauded Silver's decision.

"Now the healing process begins," the team said.

CNN's Jill Martin and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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