LOS ANGELES -- After all the anticipation, perhaps the most dramatic element of Game 5 was what didn't happen.
Warriors players had a devised a plan that, had they gone through with, would've been one for the history books. The plan was to go through the pre-game festivities Tuesday night, then take the floor for the opening tip. Dap the Clippers starters, as is customary, and get in position for the jump ball.
As soon as it was tossed, point guard Stephen Curry said his team was going to walk off the floor in protest. All of them.
"It would have been our only chance to make a statement in front of the biggest audience that we weren't going to accept anything but the maximum punishment," Curry said. "We would deal with the consequences later but we were not going to play."
Thanks to Adam Silver, that boycott plan was boycotted. The new NBA commissioner's punishment of Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his bigoted comments -- a lifetime ban and forced sale of the franchise -- appeased the fury of the players.
Silver's ruling did not propel the Clippers into the raging juggernaut we saw the last game at Staples. Listless in Game 4, after being blindsided by the national attention of the Sterling story, the Clippers didn't seem to have a renewed zeal. The relief of knowing their owner was on his way out didn't produce the expected spirited performance.
Silver's ruling, however, did not turn Staples Center into a raucous environment. The signs illustrated the glee of Silver's decision -- "Clip Sterling" and "No Bigots Allowed" and "Hate the Owner."
But it fell well short of the intimidating environment that played a big part in the Warriors' 40-point Game 2 loss.
Formerly a sea of red, many wore black shirts in support of the team, part of the Clippers' post-Sterling "We Are One" campaign. And as emotive as they tried to make the ambience, the spectacle of it all drowned out the enthusiasm of a pivotal playoff game.
Unlike the tangible passion of Oracle Arena, the Clippers' home court felt like people-watching at a protest. The vibe was more about celebrating the departure of Sterling than refocusing on a thrilling series. Even Jesse Jackson was in attendance, a sign that politics was in the air.
The Warriors, who already won one game in Los Angeles, helped zap some of the life out of the atmosphere. They played defense just well enough to keep the Clippers from clicking, and were ugly enough on offense to drag the game.
But they were playing. And that's something. The series that had been hijacked by tabloid scandal and race relations was once again a physical, emotional slugfest between two teams that don't like each other.
The distraction was snatched from the psyche of the Clippers locker room. The theatrical protest the Warriors had planned was left on the shelf of imagination. Curry said the players would have boycotted if Silver had done as many had expected -- suspend Sterling indefinitely and slap him with a meaningless fine. He said boycotts were planned across the league.
Perhaps he sensed something major was brewing, but Silver snuffed that out with the surprising banishment of Sterling. In doing so, he went from a three-month old commissioner to the newest NBA star.
He seized the opportunity to establish himself as a viable and worthy leader of the NBA, to separate himself from the imposing legacy David Stern left behind, to bolster the NBA's reputation for being a progressive league.
He made the owners look strong and forward-thinking. At the same time, he won over skeptical players and validated their importance to the NBA machine.
And it wasn't just that he did it, but also how. He orchestrated a production befitting of the moment, one that surely has LeBron James rewriting the script for The Decision 2.
It was great theater Tuesday, which says a lot in a postseason that has been nothing short of riveting. Silver arrived to the podium late, thickening the tension. When he finally spoke, his voice cracked from nerves and emotion.
Then he laid the hammer. An emphatic finale to a four-day circus.
By the time the Warriors and Clippers took the court for Game 5, all the drama and spectacle was gone. And all that was left was basketball.
NBA bans Clippers owner
Sterling for life, fines
him $2.5 million