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Recap: Blake Griffin Beats Buzzer To Top Blazers, 104-103

Portland had the game in hand, but Blake Griffin’s Clippers stole a victory at the buzzer. Check out the highlights.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Griffin nailed a dagger three at the buzzer and the Portland Trail Blazers lost a heartbreaker to the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday 104-103. It was a close, hard-fought contest wire-to-wire, and while there more than a few topics worthy of discussion, most of the attention will surely be drawn towards C.J. McCollum - the NBA’s best foul shooter one year ago - who missed two costly free throws down the stretch, including one with 5.9 seconds remaining to set up the game winner.

Box Score

After a cool Spanish version of player introductions, performed by DJ Cobo Pepe Moscoso on behalf of Latino Community Night, a slow start set the tone for what would become a grind. The NBA’s current top two defensive teams looked the part early, as both sides slogged through much of the first quarter before getting into somewhat of a rhythm. “Somewhat” being as close as you can get into a rhythm during a half with 25 fouls and 38 total free throws. Portland committed 17 of those fouls and in the process gave up 20 freebies to a hungry Clippers squad.

Nothing came easy for the Blazers, shooting only 36% from the floor in the half and struggling to produce second-chance points despite winning the rebounding battle and hauling in 10 offensive boards. Portland got some good looks, guys just couldn’t knock them down.

Damian Lillard operated mostly as facilitator in the early going, but chipped in nine points from some deep threes to go along with five assists. The beneficiary of most of those dimes was Jusuf Nurkic, who looked poised and under control after an at times shaky start to the season. Nurk flashed a couple nice spin moves and hook shots against an elite defender in DeAndre Jordan on his way to 10 points, but was also limited by foul trouble.

Danilo Gallinari has feasted at the foul line against the Blazers in the past, and continued to do so tonight, scoring eight of his 14 points from the stripe while four different Clippers each earned at least three trips to line.

The result was a herky-jerky 24 minutes of basketball with L.A. heading into the locker room with a nine point lead.

Halftime: Portland 53, Los Angeles 62

Foul trouble continued to plague Portland early in the second half, as Nurkic picked up his fourth and and fifth fouls just minutes into the third quarter, forcing him to the bench until the six minute mark in the final frame.

With its only reliable interior scoring sidelined, the Blazers had to rely on the outside shot and luckily it was there for them. Al-Farouq Aminu drilled a straightaway high-arcer - one of his five makes from downtown - midway through the third to briefly tie the game at 72, and Lillard later connected on a DEEP trey five feet behind the line to take the lead at 77-76.

From there it was a ping-pong match into the final minutes. The Clippers responded to the Blazers’ run with extreme aggressiveness on the boards - if Portland managed to force a miss, Jordan, Griffin or even Patrick Beverley was there to clean it up. Beverley managed to corral a Griffin miss with 6:31 remaining that led to free throws which kept L.A. within two at 94-92, and after an Austin Rivers three gave the Clippers the lead, Griffin tipped in his own missed layup to go up by three at 99-96.

That’s when the craziness started.

The Blazers managed to get stops on the next three possessions, during which McCollum was fouled by Rivers behind the arc, where he converted two of three at the line to pull Portland back within one. Nurkic then regained the lead with another spinning hook shot at 100-99 with just 1:20 left. Griffin and McCollum then traded buckets, and after ANOTHER timely offensive rebound by Beverley, L.A. had the ball for what appeared to be a final look with 20 seconds on the clock.

Rivers ended up receiving the ball at the left wing where he drove hard to the key where Lillard, and about the rest of the Blazers were waiting for him. He collided with Lillard, initially drawing a blocking foul (and apparently dislocating his thumb in the process) but after review the call was overturned and called a charge, turning the ball over to Portland with six seconds left and the lead.

McCollum split the free throws after an intentional foul, leaving the door open for Griffin’s heroics. It was a disappointing loss to the say the least and one the Blazers probably should have had.

What’s Next:

Portland will look to bounce back Saturday when it hosts the Phoenix Suns, who are suddenly looking much better than the squad blown out by 48 points on opening night just over a week ago. Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.