In a Nutshell
The Blazers play a great first half and a lousy second half but end up running into a team less able to close the deal than they, walking away with a much-needed win. Individual heroics from Wesley Matthews, Marcus Camby, and Nicolas Batum offset amazingly substandard games from Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Blazers announced early that they were treating this game different than those on their recent Road Trip of Doom. They started the game moving and going inside, drawing 2 fouls on the Clippers in the first 20 seconds of the game, and continued to pressure the paint frequently in the first half. The Clippers tried to play 5-on-5 defense, a strategy which doesn't work well given the array of ways the Blazers can score. The Blazers treated them to the smorgasbord throughout the half: drawing more fouls, hitting threes, scoring on individual jumpers and runners, scoring off of offensive rebounds. Even more impressively the Blazers looked like they had actually met each other before the play in question on defense. They stepped in for charges on men not their own. They communicated and covered. The pep in their step befuddled the Clippers who preferred to play live and let live ball. The result was a 59-37 halftime lead for Portland, making recent down games seem illusory.
Sadly that bump in the night turned out to be a very real monster in the second half. The Clippers employed a couple defensive strategies after the break, shutting off the flow of Portland's offense completely. At first they just flat-out backed up a step on everybody without the ball. The Blazers shot outside and bricked. Then they tossed it to Brandon Roy and let him drive against the Clippers to no avail. L.A. rebounded and ran in either case and the lead lessened. In an age-old story the offensive drought led to a loss of defensive focus. Inside shots and fouls became standard for the Clips. Even worse, they started grabbing offensive rebounds. Portland shot 23% in the third period with Wesley Matthews hitting nearly every field goal made and everybody else looking like burnt crap on toast. The only saving grace in the quarter came at its end when Joel Przybilla spun to the hoop with 4 seconds left, received the ball, and promptly got pushed by Brian Cook. Cook made no play on the ball but the shove didn't have overt momentum. Still, Przybilla went down on his back and promptly began jaw-jacking at Cook, causing Cook to talk smack back. Teammates who had rushed to pick up Przybilla now turned to form a wall behind which Joel loomed. The Clippers were similarly bunched and it looked like a scrap might be coming. Upon review the refs charged Cook with a Flagrant 2 and ejected him. Joel hit a free throw, the Blazers got the ball back and hit 2 more, and they claimed 3 points in the last 4 seconds. More to the point, they showed that they weren't going to let this game go without taking out some frustration on an opponent...perhaps drawing blood and teeth along the way. The Blazers gave back 10 to the Clippers in the period but still held a 12-point lead after three.
Were this a novel that incident would have spurred a vicious rally. Instead the same song continued in the fourth. L.A. adopted a second effective technique, throwing two men down on any Blazer who dribbled towards the basket. They'd herd the defender towards the baseline and wall him off, making the only practical play a bail-out pass straight backwards...a pass they could watch with but a single man. The Blazers had no chance to reverse the ball across the court with any speed, making weak-side defense comically easy. Portland just wilted on the vine. The best they could manage was a bunch of Brandon Roy misses. The Clips continued to O-rebound and press on offense. The only spark came when Rudy Fernandez darted across the lane to slap the ball from the outstretched arms of Craig Smith on the drive. Rudy's follow-through caught Smith straight in the face, causing him to yell and threaten mayhem against Rudy, in turn causing the referees to toss him from the game. With Chris Kaman having left earlier because of an ankle injury and Brian Cook previously tossed, the Clippers were now sporting a Blazer-esque center corps. Nevertheless they kept closing the gap, narrowing it to 3 on several occasions.
The defining moment of this game followed an L.A. timeout with 4:35 left in the game. Brandon Roy had just hit 1 of 2 free throws as the Blazers struggled to score in any fashion. The Clippers trailed 81-85 and were setting to make their final push. They inbounded the ball after the timeout and Andre Miller promptly picked the pocket of Eric Bledsoe, leading to a Wesley Matthews streaking layup. On progressive plays the key events were a Marcus Camby offensive rebound, a Nicolas Batum steal, an Andre Miller offensive rebound, and finally a Brandon Roy 3 which left the Blazers up 8. Those events didn't salt the game away, as L.A. would return for one last push. But they did hold the Clippers off enough for Portland to eventually withstand that push. More to the point, everything except the three came via pure energy and hustle. The triple was just the capping moment, the reward for all the hard work. The Clippers still had a chance to close the game late, down only 3 with 45 seconds remaining and the ball in hand, having been ripped from the Blazers off of a too-predictable Roy set. But L.A. barfed up one of the worst 3-on-1 breaks in history and never got the opportunity again. Blazers win, 100-91.
Outside of significant contributions from a few individuals--to be noted in a moment--I'm not sure there are many lasting lessons from this game. The Blazers played well enough in the first half, but it was against the Clippers. The Blazers played horribly in the second half and it was against the Clippers. If L.A. could hit a foul shot to save their lives they might well have won this game. The most interesting and maybe telling developments were the physical play and near-fights. At least the Blazers showed they cared and were willing to take out their frustrations on somebody besides themselves.
Wesley Matthews scored a game-high 26, a full quarter of Portland's points. He moved well without the ball and was faster vertically to the basket than anyone on the court, making himself an easy target for passes. He went 10-19, 5-5 from the line.
Nicolas Batum shot only 4-12 for 13 points but made up for it with 14 rebounds, 5 offensive. He played 30 minutes. Shockingly enough when he's contributing he tends to get more floor time.
Marcus Camby finally discovered his scoring touch by forgetting the jumper and just driving. His offense was OK. His defense was the same OK. But his rebounding was superb. He grabbed 19 in the game to go with 12 points.
Andre Miller also played a nice game, befuddling Bledsoe on both ends of the floor. He shot 2-6 but drew and hit 9 foul shots for 13 points. He also had 6 assists and 5 steals.
Rudy Fernandez continued to hit from the arc, going 2-4 from range for 9 points total in 13 minutes.
Joel Przybilla and Dante Cunningham didn't register much statistically, combining for 23 minutes, 2 rebounds, 1 point, and 7 personal fouls. But they also combined to keep the Clippers non-Blake-Griffin big men handcuffed. None of their counterparts had any measurable effect on this game and only Jarron Collins actually finished it.
I think I've figured out Patty Mills. His first 90 seconds on the floor are going to suck. After that he loosens up and gets rolling, looking pretty good. The Blazers aided his roll by putting him off the ball in the second half. He scored 8 points in 10 minutes, hitting all 3 of his shots including 2 threes.
You may have noticed an omission thus far. Two, actually. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge had bad games. Aldridge fouled out in 23 minutes, shooting 2-10 for 4 points and 5 rebounds. He had exactly one nice move on offense and got his lunch eaten on the other end. Brandon Roy got saved by drawing 8 foul shots and hitting 7. Otherwise his offensive performance was woeful. The Clippers had him clocked and boxed up tight. He wasn't entirely successful in fighting his way out despite repeated attempts, shooting 3-13 on an array of nutty jumpers and blunted drives. He scored 14 with 3 assists.
Stats of the Night
- Clippers lose three big men
- Clippers shoot 26-43 (60.5%) from the foul line.
- Blazers win shooting 39.7% from the floor. Shooting 53.8% from the arc and 86.1% from the foul line didn't hurt the cause.
- Portland's 17 offensive rebounds didn't hurt the cause either.
- 1 win
Odd Notes and Links
That flagrant on Cook is going to be downgraded upon review.
Here lies ClipsNation.