The Blazers spread the scoring out, and were led by All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, with support from Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and CJ McCollum.
The game started ominously, with a typical Clipper dunk. Thanks to mostly interior shots, LA shot over 50% early... but Portland was doing the same, jumping to a 6 point lead behind two Matthews three-pointers, and a stream of Aldridge jumpers. With some more inside offense, the Clippers quickly closed the gap. This really defined most of the first quarter, as neither team could gain an advantage, with both teams shooting over 50%. The Clippers held a one point lead after one.
In the second quarter, the Clippers picked up the defense and went on a run, taking a 7 point lead due to fast break points. But in response, Portland took care of business, with Dorell Wright (playing PF!), Batum and Lillard combining to tie the game. Lillard found the holes in the Clipper defense, and drove to the hole all quarter, as well as hitting the three. Off the bench, Wright made a case for playing time with as solid offensive stint. But turnovers led to 22 fast break points in the first half for the Clippers, which kept the game tight. In fact, the teams were tied at halftime.
The third quarter was much of the same, as the teams traded leads back and forth with dunks and hot shooting. But late in the quarter, Wright and McCollum combined for a rare 6 point possession (fouled on a made three, missed free throw, Blazer rebound for another three). That gave Portland a 5 point lead late in the quarter, which was still 3 at the buzzer
Chris Paul returned at the start of the fourth, and not coincidentally, the Blazer lead vanished. The Blazers fought back (and were hitting a few lucky shots), but Lillard, in foul trouble much of the night, quickly picked up his fifth foul ona charge. He headed right back to the bench, just minutes into the fourth. That was the opening the Clippers needed, as they regained the lead. In a shocking development (if you've followed this recap so far), Portland pulled back ahead. Neither team could take control, and Portland led by one with 5:15 left. Lillard returned to put Portland ahead with 3:30 left, but the Clippers scored four straight points to take a 3 point lead with 2:30 left. Aldridge scored on an offensive rebound, but Paul was fouled at the other end. He somehow missed both free throws. But Lillard lost the ball at the other end, giving up an alley-oop dunk for the Clippers. He followed it up with a wild three-pointer that missed. After a Clippers miss, Batum missed a three, but the Blazers got another shot with 27 seconds left. They missed again, and the Clippers sealed the win with free throws.
LaMarcus Aldridge was hot early, but was quieter afterward. He finished with 25 points on 10-18 shooting, but just 3 rebounds against the big front line of the Clippers.
Damian Lillard had a nice night, when he was in the game. His foul trouble was a big story of the game, as he was repeatedly forced to the bench while on fire. He had another rough stretch in the clutch though, having a key turnover to cost the Blazers a shot at the lead for the second straight night. He scored 21 (on 8-12 shooting) with 5 assists but 6 turnovers.
Nicolas Batum had a relatively solid night stats-wise, with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, along with heavy defensive duties. But he'll also be remembered for not only his 5 turnovers, but also his ill-advised off-balance three-point attempt, which missed badly and sealed the win for Los Angeles.
Robin Lopez was fighting against DeAndre Jordan and LA's front line. And he lost his backup. A popular view tonight on replay was a Chris Paul drive past his defender, with Lopez moving over to block the bucket... leaving his man open for the easy alley-oop. The alternative (a Paul layup) wasn't appetizing either. Lopez had a long night. He had 12 points and 6 rebounds in 34 minutes.
CJ McCollum was first guy off the bench tonight, and had another solid night. It's no accident he's moving up the rookie rankings. His production mainly came in the first half, and was less of a factor afterward. A few times, he simply had shots rim out, the luck of the iron. However, you can't miss the signs of a playmaker, and his progress will be fun to watch, especially as he gets further integrated into the lineups and offense. He hit 3-4 three-pointers and a floater for 11 points.
Wesley Matthews shot 5-16. It was a night where he wants to do everything, but is not being very successful at any of them. Unfortunately, this included free throws, as he missed a pair of clutch free throws in the fourth, followed by another one shortly after. Of all the people on the team who could use a vacation, I suspect Wesley is near the top of the list. Probably for the best he won't be shooting three-pointers Saturday night.
Meyers Leonard got the call to replace the injured Joel Freeland tonight (Thomas Robinson got a DNP-CD). He won't make you forget that he's Meyers Leonard, and he was clearly outmatched against the Los Angeles front line. But it wasn't a disaster, as Meyers contributed 8 points on 4-5 shooting, including a few nice offensive moves.
Dorell Wright and Mo Williams each had their ups and downs. Wright had one of the nicest behind-the-back passes you'll see all season for a layup (one of his three assists in 12 minutes), and even hit a three-pointer. Perhaps this is the first sign Dorell's stabilizing and settling back into his role in the rotation. Williams, in his first game back, hit a circus-style three-pointer, and had 4 assists with his 3 turnovers. It was the usual Mo game.
It's finally here, a full week off for most of the Blazers, and a big All-Star Weekend for LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. Blazer's Edge will have all the coverage you've come to expect, and of course there will be Gameday Threads for all three days this weekend.
When you finish a week like this, as a fan sometimes you just have to sigh, shrug, and move on. If the Blazers are playing in May, we probably won't be thinking about that lull during the rough stretch of schedule. And, even with the poor late game execution, nothing that happened this week should discourage us from thinking about playing in May.
Here's the form for the jersey contest. Bad news, I don't know the answers for the contest off the top of my head. I'll ask Dave to fill this in later.
The Clippers have stunk, for many many years. And they finally have a good team to root for, even if some of the players aren't necessarily likeable from the outside looking in. Try to give 'em some love over at Clips Nation.
Gameday Thread Comments of the Night:
Thanks to everyone who participated in tonight's Gameday Thread! As always, here are the most popular comments, based on the number of Rec's from their fellow fans: