[With no television coverage of the game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers, Kenneth Armstrong from Clips Nation is today’s guest contributor, recapping today’s events directly from the Staples Center.]
We are half way through the preseason, with the conclusion of the Blazers’ afternoon game in Los Angeles. The early start caught the Blazers flat-footed, but they eventually took control, surging to an unrecoverable distance ahead of the Clippers. The result? A relaxed 134-106 victory.
Although the Blazers had a bit of a false start, they ended the the first half ahead by 14, scoring 70 in just 24 minutes of play. They came back from the 7-0 hole by earning trips to the free throw line, shooting 17/19 from the stripe, whereas the Clippers only shot 12 FTs.
Offensively, center Jusuf Nurkic stood out early. While the Clippers were taking a lot of outside shots, putting them out ahead, Nurkic made shots from inside and out, drawing fouls as well. He ended the half with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Harkless also shot impeccably in the first half (5/5 from the field).
When the second unit made its first appearance, the Blazers’ run stalled slightly, as they gave up a few offensive rounds. But their defensive rotations eventually tightened up and the Blazers were down by just one with about three minutes to go in the first quarter.
By the middle of the second quarter, however, Portland was up by eight and forced a Clippers timeout. From here to the end of the half, the Blazers let the Clippers continue shooting from outside, countering with penetration while on offense, largely a function of Lillard taking over the game. He had 22 in the half, with 9 points from the free throw line (9/9).
The Blazers, obviously, did what they needed to do in the first half. But there was still a lack of concept or theme. They were effective at several things, yet I did not sense a unifying theme to their strategy. I suppose this is a big positive: they did everything from hitting cutters down the baseline to letting Lillard pound the ball into the ground until he found a crease through which to finish. It still added up to a 70-56 lead at the half.
The second half was largely uneventful: the Blazers were able to extend their lead to the point where neither team had much of a reason to play its starters.
But before it got to that point, the Blazers, led by Lillard (who finished with 35 points) and McCollum (who had 20 of his own), out-shot the Clippers, and were active enough on defense to force them into more outside shots. Evidence of this would be Blake Griffin's performance. Typically an inside player, Griffin instead decided to live beyond the arc in this game. And although he hit three three-pointers, the Blazers were better served having Blake and others settle for jump shots, getting the rebound, and going back the other way.
Once it was "garbage time" (much of the second half), we saw both teams deploy the younger and roster-fringe players. Standouts from this troop of Blazers included Pat Connaughton, who had a nice drive, a block, and a three pointer.
Pat Connaughton (who they keep calling Conn-AUGHT-in) with a block on Williams and then a three on the next possession.— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) October 8, 2017
Next was Zach Collins, who had a few nice plays towards the end as well. He finished with 12 points and two rebounds.
Zach Collins having himself a nice lil' fourth quarter— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) October 8, 2017
The rest of the second unit were pretty standard, but I would note that the guys had very active hands, adding to the Blazers' already strong performance in the forced turnovers and steals categories.
The Blazers will play tomorrow night in Sacramento against the Kings. It will be televised in Portland on NBC Sports Northwest, and nationally on NBA TV.