Doc Rivers pumped his fist toward the Staples Center rafters six times, screamed and suddenly began high-fiving fans seated near the court. Long praised for his coolness under pressure, even Rivers had to admit he lost his composure as the final few seconds of the Los Angeles Clippers' series-clinching Game 7 victory over the Golden State Warriors ticked off the clock.

All the stress of the past week, the taint from the Donald Sterling scandal, the tension of a taut, exhilarating pushed-to-the-brink, first-round playoff series unburdened itself from Rivers' shoulders in that moment, and the Clippers coach yelled in joy, or relief, or a mixture of both. Not even when he guided the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship did Rivers show so much emotion.

"I needed to exhale some too," Rivers said. "This was a hard week. Was it a week? I don't even know. It felt like two months.

"I just needed to be able to smile and laugh and cheer and be proud of something."

Rivers soaked in the aftermath of the Clippers' 126-121 victory over the Warriors because it represented so much more for the franchise, for Rivers himself. From the moment Sterling's racial comments were made public late on the night of April 26, Rivers and the Clippers weathered a week unlike any in NBA history. The players considered boycotting Game 4 of the series, then were criticized by some when they opted to play. Within three days, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was levying a lifetime ban on Sterling and announcing the league would attempt to force him to sell the franchise.

"When Adam made his decision, we were at shootaround for Game 5, and that was the first time where everybody was like, 'Phew,' " Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. "You go into the locker room five minutes later and somebody tells a joke. I hadn't heard that for three days. When that happened on Tuesday that was the first real moment where guys started moving on."

For Rivers, that moment didn't arrive. He tasked himself with becoming the team's spokesperson during the crisis, answering every media question so his players could stay quiet. Instead of preparing for the Warriors, much of Rivers' days were spent talking with Silver, National Basketball Players Association liaison Kevin Johnson and even Sterling's wife, Shelly. On Friday, the day before the Clippers were to play a game that could end their season, Rivers went downtown for an emotional meeting with the franchise's staff.