Facing an injured Clippers team without stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Blazers did just enough to leave Los Angeles with a hard fought win and a 3-2 series lead. The Clippers played well for three quarters but Damian Lillard shook off a tough shooting night and came up big in the fourth to help the Blazers pull away in the fourth quarter. The Blazers return to Portland with a chance to clinch a second round matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
The Blazers were led by CJ McCollum (27 points) and Mo Harkless (19 points and 10 rebounds). Damian Lillard shook off a tough night shooting and scored 22 including 16 in the fourth quarter. JJ Redick scored 19 for the Clippers while Jamal Crawford finished with 17.
Without Paul and Griffin, the Clippers started Austin Rivers and Paul Pierce and the difference was noticable early. Pierce air balled an isolation fadeaway while Austin Rivers looked like typical Austin Rivers. Neither team looked sharp offensively and the Blazers looked like they were trying to build a brickhouse. The Clippers continued their swarming defense on the Blazer guards and the shots that fell for Aminu in Portland didn't come early tonight.
The Clippers put their offense in the hands of Crawford and Reddick, with limited success. Redick looked hampered by his heel injury and Crawford's shot was erratic. Lillard and McCollum were quiet early but Harkless played well in the first quarter and scored on a variety of cuts and drives.
End of First: Portland 18 Los Angeles 18
The McCollum led second unit came out to push a quick lead for the Blazers. Henderson looked sharp for the Blazers offensively and the low scoring first quarter seemed to evaporate in favor of the Blazers. However, the Clippers battled back and the Blazers' offense stagnated without warning. The Blazers still had no answer for Jordan and he dominated the paint on both sides including a few high flying blocks.
The Clippers dared the Blazers to beat them with Aminu and Harkless jump shots and the Blazers countered and dared the Clippers to beat them with Redick and Crawford mid rangers. Neither side won and the crowd was probably the true loser if they expected any sort of offensive flow. The Blazer starting backcourt was extremely quiet as Lillard looked like he was being guarded by the angry spirit of Chris Paul. He finished without a field goal and McCollum only scored 8. The Blazers were paced by Harkless who scored 17 in the first half.
Halftime: Portland 45 Los Angeles 50
Lillard regained the lead for Portland with his first field goal and proved that he hadn't started his vacation yet. This inspired some energy by the rest of the starting unit and it showed on the defensive end. The Blazers weren't exactly setting the world on fire but the Clippers didn't score their first points until halfway through the quarter. The length of the Blazers' frontcourt started bothering the Clippers and led to deflections and errant shots. McCollum hit a medley of tough shots for the Blazers and finished with 10 for the quarter. His layup gave the Blazers a 65-60 lead with four minutes to go.
A few steals and long rebounds gave the Blazers some fast break opportunities and the Blazers went up by as much as 9. Lillard continued to struggle but the rest of the Blazers filled in offensively. Late in the quarter, the Clippers went on a quick run capped by a Jeff Green 3. Two free throws by Crawford tied the game going into the crucial fourth quarter. Blazer fans hoping for a rout without the Clippers' stars were sorely disappointed and had to hold their breath until the fourth quarter.
End of Third: Portland 71 Los Angeles 71
Coming into the quarter at 1-10 from the field, Lillard hit two off the dribble threes and then a fast break dunk. He looked like he had been hustling the Clippers all game before showing up to clinch his winnings. The rest of the Blazers joined in the fun and a Crabbe 3 extended the lead to 13 with a little more than 7 minutes left.
The Clippers went on a few short runs but Lillard's fourth 3 pushed the lead to 16 and the Clippers never came close. The Chris Kaman garbage time show was absent but Blazer fans could rejoice with a hard earned road win in Los Angeles.
The Blazers will look to wrap up the first round series in Portland on Friday night. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.