The Portland Trail Blazers returned to the Moda Center Friday, hungry for its first win in over two weeks against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Blazers, playing its first home game following a four-game road trip, carried a seven-game losing streak into the evening, dating back to the 120-103 fourth quarter collapse to the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 8.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard (27 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds), Ed Davis (17 points, 15 rebounds) and Mason Plumlee (18 points, 10 rebounds). The Clippers were led by Blake Griffin (21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) and DeAndre Jordan (12 points, 15 rebounds). Chris Paul posted a a decent line (11 points, 8 rebounds) but only shot 4-12 and looked uncharacteristically out-of-sync at times.
Portland's offense again got out to a sluggish start, missing ten of its first 15 shots and its shooting hovering around 30% for most of the period. Los Angeles showed signs of its dramatic 124-117 loss to Golden State the night before, which aside from a couple gimme alley-oop lobs to Jordan lacked the high-flying explosiveness the team is known for. Lillard struggled with his outside shot early before converting a layup and-1 to pull the Blazers within one. Perennial thorn in Portland's side J.J. Redick, who had missed the previous contest nursing a shoulder injury, showed the most energy and scored seven in the quarter. CJ McCollum was aggressive, coolly draining a three-pointer and closing the quarter with a nice hesitation layup and two free throws. The Clippers led by seven before CJ's mini-run managed to pull Portland even.
Griffin exited the game halfway through the period with an apparent leg injury but returned later in the second.
End of First: Portland 23, Los Angeles 23
Defense continued to prevail into the second quarter as the score remained tight. The Clippers began to hound Lillard and McCollum in the backcourt but the Blazer's role players did a good job relieving the pressure with balanced scoring and solid ball movement. Nobody shot the lights out, but it was a welcome contrast to some of the isolation-heavy tendencies that have at times plagued the team during its losing streak. Plumlee and Davis responded well to lack of attention paid to them, scoring 16 points and hauling in 14 rebounds in the first half while missing only one shot between them. Portland played a bit of hack-a-Jordan in the final minute and got the wanted result from the line, however, failing to secure the rebound which led to a Griffin layup.
Halftime: Portland 48, Los Angeles 47
Plumlee's strong post play continued, going to battle against a formidable Clipper frontcourt which typically makes its living in the paint. The Blazers dominated the boards, and while not shooting all that well, managed to stall Los Angeles' usually brisk pace. Lillard's three pointer increased Portland's lead to eight, and Al-Farouq Aminu's floater gave them its first double-digit lead of the night at 63-53. But then came Jamal Crawford - the hot shooting sixth-man scored nine quick points to erase the deficit before Wesley Johnson tied the game at 70. Aminu's jumper re-claimed the Blazer lead going into the final period.
End of Third: Portland 75, Los Angeles 73
The grind-it-out affair would hold true in the fourth - Portland continued to force lower-percentage shots from the Clippers' but failed to generate efficient offense of its own. Most success came off of broken plays and Davis's pure hustle, who muscled himself to seemingly every loose ball. When a guard would drive to the hoop, Davis would be right there behind them to scoop up the rebound. His tenacity kept the Blazers in the game when nothing else was working. Griffin and Paul worked their tried-and-true two-man game, for which Portland struggled to find an answer, but Lillard came back big with back-to-back in-your-face threes to push the lead back to five with three minutes remaining. Active hands from Plumlee led to a couple timely steals and yet another dagger three from Lillard put the deciding stamp on the contest. Vintage Lillard Time.
Portland heads down I-5 to take on the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.
-- Ryan Rosback | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter