Following Sunday night's 115-95 Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs, the Trail Blazers acknowledged that they need to take better advantage of mismatches provided by Clippers coach Doc Rivers' tactical defensive moves.
One of the Clippers’ primary moves was shifting 6-foot-8 small forward Luc Mbah a Moute to guard the 6-foot-3 McCollum. But it came at the expense of leaving 6-foot-4 JJ Redick guarding Blazers’ 6-foot-9 forward Maurice Harkless.
"They are basically trying to hide (Redick) on defense,’’ Harkless said. "And I’m going to take advantage of that. He’s not as big as me and I have to use that to my advantage.’’
Harkless finished the night with 9 points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field and 0-for-3 shooting from deep in 21 minutes. However, he was hampered by foul issues early and wasn't able to stay in the game long enough to get into a solid groove.
Al-Farouq Aminu, on the other hand, was left open on the perimeter several times by the Clippers in his 26 minutes, a strategy employed by Rivers to great effect as Aminu clanged six of his eight 3-point attempts and failed to make L.A. pay for providing him plenty of breathing room. He's not afraid to continue shooting if left open, though:
"My teammates need me to take those shots, even if they don’t always go in,’’ Aminu said. "It just messes up the flow if I don’t. So I will always step up and take those shots.’’
Aminu, a career 32.2 percent shooter from outside -- his best year shooting from deep before signing with Portland last offseason was his rookie year in 2011 when he made 31.5 percent of his 3-pointers -- improved to 36.1 percent from outside this season.
And even though Aminu hit just two of his eight 3-point tries on Sunday, Blazers guard Damian Lillard still is counting on his supporting cast to hit open shots:
"I thought we got a lot of good looks,’’ said Damian Lillard, who scored 21. "And I was really happy with it because those are shots guys have been knocking down in the closing stretch of the season. We have confidence in those guys making those shots. That’s why we throw it to them, and that’s why they take them.’’
The Blazers resume play against the Clippers Wednesday night at 7:30 in Los Angeles in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.