Craig Mitchelldyer-US PRESSWIRE
The Portland Trail Blazers pulled off a big win, beating the Chris Paul-less Los Angeles Clippers down the stretch to grab a game they deserved.
The Blazers were led by the starting lineup, as always. Nicolas Batum got his second triple-double, with 20 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. Damian Lillard scored 20 points as well. But don't forget the bench, who had a very nice run along the way to help build a double-digit Blazer lead.
First Quarter: No slow start tonight, as both teams came out aggressive at both ends. The Blazers used offensive cuts to get open looks at the basket, and the Clippers used their inside advantage to enjoy some easy buckets. Surprisingly, Coach Terry Stotts went deep into the Blazer bench early. With help from a couple Lillard three-pointers, the Blazers held a 3 point lead after one.
For a second I thought Wes got caught on a switch against [DeAndre] Jordan, then I realized it was JJ. Jordan is a large man.
Second Quarter: In a one fun minute, Will Barton sank a step-back three, followed by Meyer Leonard assisting an Aldridge three-point play, then Ronnie Price hit a three. Blazer bench, represent! That 9 point run gave the Blazers an 11 point lead and the Clippers a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Blazers stole the ball, and Price/Barton combined for an alley-oop break dunk. The Rose Garden erupted. By the time the Blazer bench sat down, the 3 point Blazer lead jumped to 14. As both teams' starters returned, the Blazers' shooting went cold, and the Clips roared back into the game. They closed to within 6 at halftime.
Is it just me, or did we go on a run because Leonard was in the game?
Third Quarter: The teams traded runs back and forth, as the Blazers jumped into a double digit lead, only to fall back to Earth, then make another run again. A few lucky three-pointers were key to Portland's lead, but eventually that luck ran out, and the Clippers made a late run to close back within 6.
Fourth Quarter: After a scoreless stretch, a Grant Hill three-pointer cut the lead to one possession. Suddenly all the luck escaped from the Blazers and went to the Clippers, who made the most of it. The Blazers called timeout while only leading by one, and former Blazer Jamal Crawford gave the Clippers the lead shortly after. The Blazers made short runs, but could not compete with the strong inside play by LA, who kept the Blazers from gaining any significant lead. As the clock ticked past 5, the Clippers made their move. They scored 11 straight points to change a 4 point deficit into a 7 point lead, as fans groaned at Blazer mistake after mistake. The Clippers shut down the Blazers on defense. Crawford heated up, and the Blazers couldn't buy a call. Combine it, and the Clippers led by 9, just like that.
The Clippers never knew what hit them.
First, the Blazers cut the deficit to 4 with 90 seconds left. After a turnover, Matthews finished a three-point play on the break to cut the lead to one with 70 seconds left. After Lamar Odom missed, Hickson was fouled on the rebound. He hit both free throws to finish a 10 point Blazer run in 2 minutes, regaining the lead. Out of the timeout, Batum stole a pass, giving the Blazers a chance to-- Nevermind, Batum threw the ball out of bounds at the other end. The Clippers had possession with 24 seconds left, and a chance for a win. Crawford's eyes were wide, as he wanted a chance to take down the Blazers in front of the fans booing him. He drove for a layup, but missed, and was caught in a jump ball with Batum. Crawford got the tip, and a chance at the dagger, a jumper... and missed off the back rim. Batum secures the rebound to complete his triple double, and the Blazers win!
Stay tuned for more analysis from Blazer’s Edge later tonight. And be here tomorrow night at 6:30, for the second half of this back-to-back. In the meantime, check out the upcoming Blazers schedule. -- Tim [email@example.com]