Following seven first-round playoff matchups over the weekend, the Portland Trail Blazers finally got its shot at the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday night, but will have to postpone any plans for an upset at least 72 hours, falling 115-95 at the Staples Center in this young team's first taste of postseason action together. LA now leads the best of seven series 1-0.
Portland hung close for most of the first half but ended up stifled by the Clippers' defense (33% from the field) and overwhelmed by LA's size near the rim (48 points in the paint), as the home team dominated the second half on its way to a blowout. The Clippers looked every bit the team with more playoff experience and proved quite the difficult matchup for the Blazers.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard (21 points, 8 assists), Gerald Henderson (16 points, 3 assists) and Al-Farouq Aminu (10 points, 12 rebounds).
The Clippers were led by Chris Paul (28 points, 11 assists, Blake Griffin (19 points, 12 rebounds) and DeAndre Jodan (18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks).
Maurice Harkless was the spark plug early, scoring two of the Blazers' first field goals and five points before being forced out of the game with two quick fouls. JJ Redick, who was questionable to play throughout the afternoon, started hot, connecting on his first two jumpers as the Clippers built a small lead. Griffin's and-1 dunk gave LA a brief three-point advantage and energized the home crowd after a bit of sluggish start.
The focus of the Clipper's defensive attention was clearly Lillard, but he managed to stay moderately effective, knocking down two three-pointers and helping with three assists in the period. He did get somewhat bothered by the added defensive pressure (three turnovers), but ultimately was the driving force during the first.
But the struggles on both ends would come in the paint - where predictably, LA holds a considerable size advantage with Griffin and Jordan. Griffin was a bully down low against Aminu, backing him down with ease on his way to 10 points in the quarter. At the other end, Jordan essentially shut down any offense inside the key and clearly disrupted the Blazers rhythm. He erased just about anything that came close to him and proved to be a powerful deterrent throughout the contest, as the Clippers nearly doubled Portland's points in the paint.
Hack-a-DeAndre made its first appearance during the final minute and completely backfired - Jordan knocked down both free throws, and to add insult to injury, the Clippers intentionally fouled Ed Davis immediately after, who missed both attempts.
End of First: Portland 21, Los Angeles 26
With Jordan sitting on the bench to start the second, the Blazers didn't do a whole lot to capitalize on his absence, but they kept themselves in the game. With Los Angeles' sights fixated on Portland's backcourt, Davis found his way for a wide-open slam dunk, and Henderson slipped to the rim on a beautiful inbounds play to pull the Blazers within two.
C.J. McCollum started to heat up from the outside, drilling a straightaway three, and Aminu buried his first trey of the evening to somehow tie the game halfway through the period. A Henderson baseline fadeaway over Jordan gave Portland a brief lead at 40-39, but the Clippers were able to recover and head into the locker room on 11-2 run. Paul had eight points during the spurt, including four from the stripe as nobody on the Blazers could figure out a way to defend the nine-time All-Star. Meanwhile, Portland went ice-cold, missing 11 of its final 12 shots.
Halftime: Portland 42, Los Angeles 50
The Blazers' struggles from the field continued into the third, missing six straight shots following Harkless's flip to begin the half. Portland's only success came from the line, but it wouldn't be enough to keep up with the surging Clippers. Griffin picked up where he left off earlier and again his size proved troublesome - his running dunk capped a Los Angeles run and the Blazers found themselves in a 17-point hole.
Aminu was given all the room he wanted but for most of the night he failed to make the defense pay for overplaying Lillard and McCollum - he scored five in the quarter but missed several wide-open looks. It just wasn't enough. Los Angeles trapped Lillard just about every chance it could, and although he did managed to keep pace scoring-wise (21 points), nobody else could help pick up the slack.
Jumpers from Paul and Jamal Crawford pushed the Clipper lead as large as 21 and Los Angeles looked thoroughly in control.
End of Third: Portland 66, Los Angeles 81
The fourth quarter was mostly a formality - Portland never threatened as LA maintained a comfortable cushion behind baskets from Crawford and Austin Rivers. Gerald Henderson, who quietly had a nice evening, scored five of his 16 points in the period, but at that point the game was mostly out of reach.
More Hack-a-Jordan failed to move the needle much either, merely prolonging the inevitable. Chris Kaman checked in to helped deliver the hacks - some drawing frustration in just the way one would expect Kaman to elicit, but by the end of it all the Clippers had grown its lead. LA would walk away with a comfortable 1-0 series advantage.
Griffin makes a call for the ref |
Game 2 will take place Wednesday again at the Staples Center - tip is set for 7:30 pm. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.
-- Ryan Rosback | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter