Half of America wanted to call in sick to work today. The Portland Trail Blazers probably should have taken the hint.
In one of the most one-sided contests in recent team history, the Los Angeles Clippers pummeled the Blazers by a final score of 111-80, after leading by as many as 48 points in the third quarter.
Blake Griffin led the way for the Clippers with 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in only 26 minutes. Chris Paul chipped in 19 points and 7 dimes. For the Blazers, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum finished with 8 points each(!) and shot a combined 5-21(!) from the field.
The Clippers opened the game with near-flawless execution, creating inside scoring opportunities at will and hitting their first six shots. The Clippers defense also looked near-perfect as they repeatedly forced the Blazers into contested jumpers. The results weren’t pretty: the Blazers were down 36-16 after one. Griffin, especially, was locked in and finished the quarter with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
The bench units opened the second quarter and, true to form so far this season, the Blazers reserves failed to make a dent in the lead. The Portland backups did look a little better on defense, but the Clippers energy and cohesiveness, combined with crisp passing, was enough to create some open looks. The lead swelled to 50-18 before Head Coach Terry Stotts called a timeout. The Blazers were 8-28 from the field and 0-10 on three-pointers at that point. Stotts tried a three-guard lineup with Evan Turner at power forward in an effort to create some offense, but they had little success. The Clippers led 61-32 at the half.
The Blazers completely surrendered in the third quarter, and were content to watch the Clippers score at will in transition and in the half court. At one point LA scored 16 consecutive points as the lead ballooned to 87-43 and the starters were finally, mercifully, sent to the bench.
A wise man once told me that it shouldn’t take 1500-words to describe a butt-kicking. So here’s the abbreviated summary: The Blazers got rocked in every facet of the game tonight from the opening tip. They never had a chance.
More specifically, the Blazer defense was so bad that half the people who looked at it turned to stone on the spot. The Clippers waltzed into the lane on nearly every possession early in the game to the tune of 20 first quarter points in the paint. At half time, the Blazers had 14 defensive rebounds...and the Clippers had 10 offensive rebounds. By the third quarter the Portland players had literally given up:
Griffin and Paul, especially, looked unstoppable. Griffin was handling the ball with confidence, punishing the Portland defenders around the hoop, dominating the glass, and generally playing like an evolved version of Charles Barkley circa 1988. Blazer’s Edge has covered the matchup problems that Paul creates before, and tonight was no exception - he outsmarted every defender that Stotts threw at him and regularly created mismatches that led to scoring opportunities.
In several other games this season, lackluster, or even eye-searingly bad, defense would not have sunk the Blazer boat. Usually they have the offensive firepower to put up 115 points and stay in the game.
That was not the case tonight.
The Blazers shot only 1-13 from 3 and 12-40 from the field in the first half. Several players had a classic case of Mike Barrett’s “just not hitting shots they normally make,” but the Clippers defense also deserves credit for overwhelming the Blazers.
LA completely sold out to challenge every shot that McCollum and Lillard took to great effect. Mason Plumlee was regularly left open for mid-range jumpers as the Clippers picked a “poison” that turned out to be fruit juice. Noah Vonleh was allowed to try not-quite-there-yet post moves against veteran defenders. And DeAndre Jordan sagged off the ineffectual Portland centers to bother every lay-up attempt a penetrating guard could muster. The result was repeated possessions with minimal passing that ended in a contested jump-shot.
When the dust had cleared the only solace of the night was that this didn’t turn into the worst loss in team history.
The Clippers defense did a masterful job on Damian Lillard. Concerningly, he was also clutching at his previously injured left index finger during the third quarter.
CJ McCollum had a couple moments on offense, showing off fancy ball-handling and shot making ability, but with Lillard shut off he was also unable to get anything going.
Mason Plumlee had plenty of opportunities to hit mid-range shots and completely bombed, finishing 1-12 from the field. Jordan completely dominated him on the boards too, at one point coming from behind to literally take a rebound out of Plumlee’s hands.
Noah Vonleh has shown a couple flashes of offensive potential in the post this season, but ultimately he still has to significantly refine his skills to challenge elite teams.
Meyers Leonard was one of the only Blazers who was active on defense tonight. Unfortunately he also made characteristic mistakes on offense.
Allen Crabbe was a another semi-bright spot. He was active on offense and regularly put himself in position to take advantage of Clipper double teams via cuts along the baseline. Unfortunately he’s not adept enough on offense to actually create opportunities when McLillard is being smothered. Crabbe finished with 9 points on 6 field goal attempts.
Don’t bother clicking this box score.
Clips Nation is probably starting to dream of no. 1 seeds.
Instant recap from Blazer’s Edge. (And the actual box score.)
Eric Griffith | GoBlazers87@gmail.com | @DeeringTornado