Given the circumstances this was not that bad of a game for the Blazers. Don't get me wrong, Portland was in no danger of winning this thing. But the Blazers played L.A. tough, made them work for most of what they got for most of the game, and held tight for all but the final 15 minutes or so. It wasn't a great effort but it wasn't a game to lose sleep over either.
The game started with a near-perfect storm for Portland. The Clippers, in typical Mike Dunleavy fashion, decided that the best way to break down the Blazers would be to take advantage of individual matchups. Since L.A. suited their regular lineup for this game and Portland had to call several temp agencies just to field a team it appeared they had matchup advantages most everywhere. In practice, though, this looked like Baron Davis going 1-on-1 a bunch, supplanted occasionally by other perimeter guys. The lack of passing and decision-making made defense relatively easy for Portland. If you pore back through the early game recaps of this season you'll see that this is something I tabbed Portland doing a bunch at the beginning of the year. If you watch the first quarter of this game you can see what it looks like from the beneficiary's perspective. The Clippers also obliged the Blazers by turning the ball over like it burned them and failing to get back on defense.
Portland, meanwhile, ran hard behind Andre Miller, who not only pushed the break but led the charge attacking the rim and getting close shots. His wingman was Martell Webster who started lighting up the game from distance and dunking range both. Throw in some decent Portland rebounding and you had just about everything you could ask for.
However, looking up at the scoreboard after the first period revealed a 21-20 Portland lead. The difference, despite the near-ideal quarter, was 1 measly point. At that point you started to get the idea how this game was going to go.
The Clippers ratcheted up the defensive intensity in the second period, at least trying to get back and prevent Portland from scoring at the cup. They blanketed Brandon Roy and took their chances with everybody else...a sound strategy. Portland still scored--in fact they scored more in the second period than they had in the first--but they had to manufacture points instead of being granted them. The only thing the Clips continued to botch was their ball-handling, but it wasn't bad enough to make a difference. Fortunately for the Blazers Webster continued his torrid offensive performance. Unfortunately Baron Davis got a burr under his saddle and began going off as well. L.A. only scored 25 in the period but the Blazers only scored 24. The game was tied going into the half.
Both offenses got on track in the third quarter but the Clippers must have had a wake-up pep talk at the half, because they finally figured out that their most severe mismatches were in the frontcourt. Chris Kaman took the bull by the horns by rebounding but his teammates soon rewarded him with shots as well...shots that nobody on Portland's side had the height to stop. As soon as the Blazers were forced to help inside their goose was cooked. They scrambled to stop the slow leak inside and got burned big time by the Clippers' perimeter shooters, especially Eric Gordon who hit a wheelbarrow full of threes (ending up 4-6 for the game). Portland countered with more Miller and Webster plus a few Juwan Howard jumpers thrown in but the Clips had more height, more weapons, a more cohesive offense, and more rebounding. They pulled ahead by 4 by the end of the period.
After three quarters of having to scratch and claw for everything and still finding themselves behind in enemy territory the Blazers pretty much gave up the ghost in the fourth. By this time a double-digit lead looked like about a million points and the Clippers achieved that by the 7:45 mark in the period. They scored inside and out, simply running through, around, and past the overmatched Blazers. They had an 18-point margin with a little over 2 minutes to go before the garbage time crew scored a few in a row. The fight was well over by that point. The Clips win by 10.
Between Kaman's 20 points, Eric Gordon's 19, Marcus Camby's 15 rebounds, and Baron Davis' 15 and 9 (plus 8 turnovers though...yikes!) L.A. had too much star power for the Blazers. Portland shot 50.6% but the Clippers ended up at 57.7%, most of the good numbers coming in that second half. Shooting 61.5% on threes didn't hurt. Neither did outrebounding the Blazers. All of that added up totaled more than the egregious turnover total.
Brandon Roy had a really rough game. Part of it was him being the only guy the Clippers were truly interested in guarding. But he seemed to be actively passing up shot attempts as well. He wasn't getting any love on the drives and the jumpers weren't falling. He looked to be the slowest of the Blazers on the court for much of the game. He just looked tired out there. I wonder if the long minutes are starting to catch up to him. He ended up 3-12 with 6 assists and 3 turnovers, never really trying to take over the game or even fight what the Clippers were doing to him.
Andre Miller, on the other hand, was a ball of fight from the word "go". The dude was relentless in running the ball down , penetrating, looking for his shot, and breaking down the defense then looking for teammates. He had 22 points on the night but the more impressive number was his 16 assists. Having the roster cleared out some seems to have done his game some good. He gets more time with the ball and more chance to be aggressive.
Speaking of aggressive, Martell Webster took his responsibilities seriously tonight. He was feeling it, and for more than just the usual one quarter too. Once Miller got him a couple of dunks his three-point shot started falling and then he was off to the races. He even hit a high degree of difficulty runner at one point, which is not really classic Martell. 25 points on 9-15 shooting, 5-9 threes, and 6 rebounds in an active game overall.
Juwan Howard had the jumper working again. I swear he just goes to that corner "Around the World" spot and waits for the ball. He's probably been hitting that thing since he was 11, which was several decades ago. He was money tonight, hitting 8-11 (including one monster dunk that had Portland's bench on their feet and laughing) for 16 points. The man's not meant to be playing 36 minutes per game against quicker or bigger guys though. He had 4 rebounds and looked spent by the time the evening was over.
Jeff Pendergraph hustled, fought for rebounds as best he could, and hit every jumper he put up for a 4-4, 8 point, 7 rebound performance in 30 minutes. I like the guy's attitude and effort.
Dante Cunningham played the most minutes off the bench tonight with 24. There are still holes in his game but he gave a credible performance, going 3-5 for 7 points and collecting 3 rebounds and 3 steals. Decent hustle.
Right now Jerryd Bayless is like an instrument that's tuned a half step below the rest of the band. Even if he's tuned accurately to himself the resulting sound isn't pretty. He struggled on the offensive end as he wasn't able to make plays or hit shots. He made a couple good individual on-ball defensive plays but his off-ball defense the last few games can best be described as "unaware". The Blazers really need his scoring right now but even more than that he has to get his head back in the game. This stretch is the clearest, and likely the best opportunity he'll get this year. Carpe minutem!
Patty Mills got a couple of shifts tonight. In the first one, as you might expect, he was just trying hard not to make any mistakes. The second one, in garbage time, saw him take and miss 3 jumpers. Not much to tell yet.
Shavlik Randolph played 3 minutes and made a shot, hit two free throws, had a rebound, an assist, and a turnover while scoring 4 points. At that rate if he got to play the whole 48 he'd score 64 points. The Blazers need that.
It'll be interesting to see how the Blazers respond physically and emotionally tomorrow versus Memphis. They'll be at home, which should provide a lift. But Memphis has athletes and skill players both and they're quick and springy. If the Blazers are fatigued, ground-bound, and slow it could be a long night. Somebody slip some Red Bull in those Gatorade coolers.
Read the Clippers' assessment of their victory at ClipsNation.