The Los Angeles Clippers entered Wednesday night’s contest winners of three straight at home against the Portland Trail Blazers. In their last meeting, the Clippers lost a hard-fought battle on the Trail Blazers home court 112-to-116 on a night where Blake Griffin and Chris Paul combined for 69 points.
40 lead changes, 34 fast-break points, and another big night for Griffin spelled trouble for the Trail Blazers, who’ve dropped three of their last five contests and seem to be cooling off heading into the All-Star break after giving up the most points in a regular season loss since April 6, 1989 to the Oklahoma City Thunder (123).
Chris Paul commented on the 40 lead changes, and close game from tip to final buzzer with, “We were up one, down one, up one, I told them in the timeout: Fellas, we need to get a score and a stop. I told B.G.[Blake Griffin] if we get a score and a stop, it changes the whole game. It was frustrating because it was me making mistakes on defense, and they were getting shots. But all in all, it was a good win for us.” While scoring the second most points per game at an average of 107, the Clippers are still middle-of-the-road in opponent points per game, allowing 100.6 (15th of 30). With Paul appearing in just his second game back since a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 18 games, he finished with 20 points and 12 assists, while Griffin led all scorers with 36 points.
Early in the contest, LaMarcus Aldrige hit six-of-seven contested shots on DeAndre Jordan, with the Clippers keeping the All-Star big man out of the paint for most of the night, all of his early shots came from 17 feet away from the basket, including a 3-pointer that gave the Blazers an early 30-25 lead. “It’s the NBA. You’re not going to completely stop somebody from scoring,” Jordan said. “I think they lead the league in scoring, but we did our best job tonight and we got stops when it counted.” As a team, the Clippers forced 16 Portland turnovers on the night.
Neither team gained an advantage greater than seven points. Darren Collison commented on the back and forth play with, “Whenever you play against a team like that, every possession counts and we had to have some kind of offensive lift.” Back in his reserve role, Collison tallied eight points in eighteen minutes of action.
With regards to his rehabilitated shoulder, Paul commented, “It’s definitely not (100 percent), but as long as I’m not hindering my team and my teammates, I feel I can be effective out there.” CP3 drained a pull up jumper out of time out with three minutes left in the fourth quarter for lead change number 40 and the Clippers never looked back. Jamal Crawford would be sent to the line late in the game to push the Clippers lead ahead by five from two free-throws. Crawford finished with 25 points, starting at shooting guard in place of the day-to-day injured J.J. Redick. “We’ve got a lot of people scoring at any point in time, but defensively, that’s where’s we’ve got to go, in the clutch”, said DeAndre Jordan on the late fourth-quarter defensive grit.
The Clippers would go on to win 122 to 117 after Portland missed their final four shot attempts late in the fourth quarter, resulting in Los Angeles and Portland each sitting five-and-a-half games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the Western Conference. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 25 points for Portland, followed by Damian Lillard with 21.
Up next, the Clippers face the San Antonio Spurs February 21st.