The Portland Trail Blazers captured their third-straight victory by dispatching the shorthanded (read: without Blake Griffin forevermore) Los Angeles Clippers tonight, 104-96. With Griffin traded to the Pistons and his replacements unavailable, the Blazers were able to ride Damian Lillard’s 28-point performance to victory. It proved no easy task, as the Clippers were able to keep pace in all but one quarter. Margins aside, the Blazers still managed to achieve their first road victory over the Clippers since November of 2015.
Lillard & Lou Battle It Out
Damian Lillard and Evan Turner got things going for the Blazers by converting a three-point shot apiece, which led to an early 6-0 lead for Portland. The Clippers responded with a simple—and effective—gameplan: attack the paint. Led by DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams, LA was able to keep pace with Portland. Lillard finished the quarter going 5-of-6 for 14 points, but the Clippers stood their ground with 16 points in the lane. The Blazers finished the first quarter clinging to a 30-27 advantage.
Williams opened the second quarter with four straight points, which gave the Clippers a 31-30 lead. With Lillard on the bench, CJ McCollum successfully navigated Portland’s offense through an aggressive LA defense. Ed Davis and Zach Collins complemented McCollum’s 10 points by securing offensive rebounds. Collins also got into the scoring column with four points of his own, allowing the the Blazers to jump out to a 44-38 lead at the 7:17 mark. The Clippers kept things close behind Williams’ 11 points in the quarter, though, and finished the half trailing the Blazers 56-51.
The Beast Feasts
The Clippers finally looked like a team that just traded away their franchise player in the third quarter. Williams went ice cold, failing to register a single point in the period. LA’s offense wasn’t the only thing that hit a snag, as Portland exploited Jordan’s aggressive defensive positioning by moving him, then attacking the paint. With the Clippers’ big men focused on the perimeter, Jusuf Nurkic and Al-Farouq Aminu feasted on the glass. Nurkic finished the quarter with 6 points and 10 rebounds, giving the Blazers a seemingly-sturdy 86-67 lead.
Portland was able to withstand LA’s comeback attempts for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, but a four-minute scoring drought in the heart of the fourth squandered their double-digit lead. With the Blazers’ offense stagnating and the Clippers trying to complete an improbable comeback, coach Terry Stotts’ squad relied on hustle plays in the final two minutes to seal the victory. Portland forced two turnovers and nabbed two offensive boards in the final moments, which allowed them to escape with the road win.
Solid Performance, Just Good Enough
Doc Rivers has never been shy about applying the pressure to Portland’s backcourt, and tonight was no different. DeAndre Jordan consistently leaped out to cover Damian Lillard off of screens, which left the majority of the Clippers’ defense exposed. The Blazers’ supporting cast isn’t known for its outside shooting prowess, but they made up for it by creating a ton of second-chance points tonight. Portland finished the night by dominating the offensive glass, finishing with a 18-9 offensive rebounding advantage over LA.
The Blazers allowed a depleted Clippers squad to hang around by giving up points in the paint. In the first half, everybody but Lou Williams got shots inside. After an endless barrage of pick-and-rolls, the Clippers had amassed 28 points in the paint at halftime. Portland was able to keep pace in the second half, but still ended up scoring eight fewer points in the paint in the game.
A road victory is nothing to balk at, but this contest should have been decided by a wider margin. The Blazers had a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter only to see it get cut to single-digits by a team that lacked reinforcements. Instead of resting down the stretch, Lillard finished with his usual 36 minutes.
The Big Fellas Grind It Out
Damian Lillard scored half of his 28 points in the first quarter. Portland’s leading man hit 4 of his 5 five three-point attempts in the opening period. He was unable to keep that pace going, and finished by going 1-5 in the final three quarters. Lillard added seven assists, three steals, and four rebounds to his impressive scoring total.
Jusuf Nurkic struggled to convert baskets in the paint, but made up for it by securing 20 rebounds. More importantly, 7 of those came on the offensive end. Along with his big night on the boards, Nurkic went 7-for-17 from the field for 14 points.
CJ McCollum had a quiet 16 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Outside of a run in the second quarter, McCollum had a tough time finding his rhythm while facing a Clippers defense that was determined to force the ball out of his hands.
Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu once again shined by doing the little things. Aminu finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Davis contributed 14 points and 9 rebounds off the bench. Zach Collins also chipped in 4 points and 5 rebounds in his 16 minutes of work.
Time For The New Uniforms
Our friends at Clips Nation are officially living in a post-Griffin world.
The Blazers will hurry home to face the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com