Game 78 Recap: Blazers 93, Clippers 85

Long Story Short:  The Blazers win tonight's game in their typical fashion: riding their starters hard, letting the opponent come back a little, closing the game well, securing an easy win against an overmatched opponent.  Coupled with losses by the Spurs and Thunder, Portland is now in a three-way tie for 6th place in the West.  By virtue of the tiebreaker situation they now hold their seeding destiny in their own hands for the first time all year.  Marcus Camby goes down with a hamstring strain in the second half.

The Game

This was one of those games where the Long Story Short tells most of what you need to know.  It wasn't the Blazers' finest effort but it wasn't their worst either.  More to the point it was plenty good enough to keep the hapless Clippers at bay.  If you've seen any of Portland's post-Camby games you probably have the feel of this one.  Portland started off riding their three scorers:  Aldridge, Miller, and Roy.  That trio took 16 of the Blazers' first 21 shot attempts.  Aldridge started just a shade off but zeroed in as he warmed to the game.  Miller and Roy found little opposition from the Los Angeles guards.  Portland's defense wasn't stunning, particularly against Chris Kaman, but the Blazers forced plenty of Clipper turnovers, keeping L.A. from threatening seriously.  The first period went 27-18 for the Blazers.

Portland's bench didn't set the world on fire but LaMarcus Aldridge and Martell Webster provided enough scoring to keep pace with the Clips early in the second period.  After Webster hit a jumper with 9:00 left, however, the Blazers faced a scoring drought.  Their defense followed suit and multiple Clippers took advantage of easy looks off of the pass.  Subsisting off of free throws--as rare as hen's teeth in this game--the Blazers watched their lead dwindle to 3.  Nicolas Batum hit a layup and a three late to preserve the lead, but it was only 4 going into the half.

As they should have, the Blazers came out focused and energized in the third period and ripped the game away from the Clippers.  Behind Aldridge and Roy Portland hit 11 of 13 shots in the first 8 minutes of the period.  L.A.'s only scoring came from their bigs, Chris Kaman and Drew Gooden, and their shots were jumpers.  The Clippers couldn't get inside, couldn't rebound or get put-backs, and couldn't defend.  Only sloppy Portland defense at the end of the quarter gave L.A. anything to hang their hats on.  They scored thrice at the rim in the last three minutes of the period but still trailed by 17 heading into the fourth.

Portland hit another dry spell offensively at the beginning of the fourth quarter.  At the same time Steve Blake took it upon himself to make the team sorry they traded him, pouring in 6 of his 14 on the evening in a four-minute span and assisting on the other three buckets the Clippers made during the first 6:30 of the period.  By the time Blake was done L.A. had climbed back within 8.  The Clips were aided and abetted by Marcus Camby's hamstring strain which had taken him out late in the third.  In the first part of the fourth the Blazers got a sharp reminder what life without a defensive center looks like, as the Clippers suddenly looked strong, driven, and far more prone to scoring in the paint.  That's where the good times ended, however.  Portland clamped down on defense late, made the Clippers look sloppy again, and scored enough to preserve an 8-point victory without sweating too much.

Both teams hovered around the 50% shooting mark in this one and neither one hit threes or created free throws to sway the balance one way or the other.  Portland ended up +5 from the charity stripe.  The Clippers hit 3 more threes than the Blazers.  Portland edged L.A. by getting up a few more shots, getting a few more offensive rebounds, and forcing a couple more turnovers.  Five Clippers scored in double-digits tonight but none of them had more than 14 points.   In the end a bunch of little mistakes killed the Clips.  They spent much of the game getting nibbled to death, making the times they got bowled over even more devastating.  It was as good of a way to win as any for the Blazers.

Indivdiual Observations

The Blazers were pretty sure they had a matchup advantage with LaMarcus Aldridge tonight.  They went to him early and often and he rewarded them with 27 points, 12-26 shooting, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists.  LaMarcus always plays better when his number is called and tonight was no exception.

Brandon Roy turned it on as much as he needed to.  He knew he could take anybody the Clippers threw at him but he mostly took them via the jumper, using height and craftiness instead of speed and agility to produce 23 points and 6 assists.

Andre Miller seemed happy enough to cede the halfcourt offense to Aldridge and Roy, chiming in on the break and picking 4 steals to go with his 4 assists and 13 points.  He had 5 turnovers himself though.  It wasn't his most focused game.

Nicolas Batum contributed in flashes but what flashes they were!  His stop and rise jumper is becoming a thing of beauty.  I cheer as loud for his dime-stopping pull-ups as for a dunk.  He went 5-8 for 11 points.  He did OK defensively but he looked a little lost on that end.

Marcus Camby had 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in his 27 minutes.   Jason Quick has him practicing and playing in the next couple of days which is good news for the Blazers.  They won't last without him.

Juwan Howard and Martell Webster turned in the decent bench performances of the night.  Howard went 5-8 for 10 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes but you clearly saw the difference with him in the middle instead of Camby.  Webster went 2-4 for 4 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes.  He also had 2 turnovers and 3 fouls in that span though.  Flawed as those outings were, they were pure gold compared to Fernandez and Bayless.   Jerryd had 1 great assist and a nice three.  Rudy I just don't know about.  His numbers say 2 assists and 2 turnovers.  His impact says, "Phfffffftttt!".

Jeff Pendergraph got 3 minutes and got out of position on multiple defensive possessions.  At least he was committing errors of comission though.  It's rough trying to fill time when you haven't seen the court in a while.

 

The take-away point of the evening has already been mentioned:  the Blazers are in an exact tie with Oklahoma City and San Antonio for the 6-7-8 seeds.  Portland already owns the tiebreaker against the Spurs.  All other things remaining equal, Monday night's showdown looms large.  Even if the Blazers or Thunder get a game ahead of the other over the weekend whoever wins that Monday game would win the series and, pulling the opponent right back into a tie, would be ahead in the seeding race.  It looks like it's going to be huge.  More to the point: the Blazers now have their seeding fate in their own hands.

Boxscore

Western Conference Standings

  1. Los Angeles Lakers   55-22
  2. Dallas Mavericks       51-27
  3. Denver Nuggets         51-27
  4. Phoenix Suns           51-27
  5. Utah Jazz                 51-28
  6. Portland Trail Blazers 48-30
  7. San Antonio Spurs    48-30
  8. OKC Thunder            48-30

Read more about this game at ClipsNation.

See your Jersey Contest scores for the evening here and enter Friday's game here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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