Without All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, the Portland Trail Blazers had no fear against the Los Angeles Clippers tonight. On ESPN, the Blazers gave the Clips all they could handle. This was an A+ game in terms of entertainment value, everything ESPN dreams of.
The Blazers were led by a nearly-shocking JJ Hickson, impressing ESPN and Blazer fans all night (especially with this dunk), finishing with 29 points and 13 rebounds. He was supported by Nicolas Batum (18 points, 6 rebounds), Wesley Matthews (12 points), Jamal Crawford (14 points, 3 assists) and Raymond "I need a new contract!" Felton (9 points, 8 assists).
The first quarter gave you a reminder the Blazers have no D inside. The Clippers offense relied on a bunch of dunks, surely to ESPN's satisfaction. However, the Blazers hit enough shots to stay close. Well, unless you're Jamal Crawford. After finally making a three, he decided that if the Blazers passed him the ball, they wanted him to shoot. Immediately. Even if two defenders were on him. After a few bad possessions, the Blazers trailed by 5 after one.
Luke Babbitt's three tied it early in the second quarter. And then the 15-0 run began. Before the Clippers could check the scoreboard, Batum hit a three to push the Blazer lead to 10. Then Flynn tossed up a halfcourt lob to JJ, leaving even the Clipper crowd impressed. However, despite a MONSTER DUNK from Hickson, the three's rained down in bunches for Los Angeles, and they regained the lead. Chris Paul hit a nice layup at the buzzer to keep the Clips ahead by 3.
The Clippers stopped playing around in the third, as a CP three-pointer gave them a 9 point lead. Coach K called timeout with just under 9 minutes left. However, the Blazers stormed back. A 5 point possession (!) forced Del Negro to take a timeout with a 2 point lead. From there, JJ Hickson caught fire, personally pulling the Blazers into a tie late in the third quarter. A late Clipper push keeps their lead to three after three, but ESPN is clearly distracted by Hickson.
Wesley personally tied the score to start the fourth quarter. As the scoring slowed down, the Blazers stayed tied with seven minutes left. When JJ dunked off a nice Batum assist, the Blazers took the lead with 6 minutes left. As the Blazer WHOA JJ HICKSON WITH ANOTHER MONSTER DUNK! AND A FELTON THREE! The Blazers lead by 6 with 4:13 left!, With 1:30 left, they still led by 4, but the Clips cut it to 2. With 45 seconds left, Randy Foye gave the Clippers the lead with his fifth three-pointer of the night. After struggling for a week, Jamal Crawford takes a contested jumper, and hits it! But in return, CP hits a perfect layup to regain the lead! As the seconds elapsed, Wesley missed a layup (as the GDT yelled "FOUL!"), and the Clippers held on for a Blazer loss that it's hard to be upset about.
Check out the box score, then stay tuned for Dave's recap. The Blazers head home tonight, get a day off, then face the Timberwolves Sunday in the Rose Garden. -- Tim