The Portland Trail Blazers lost a close one to the Los Angeles Clippers at home tonight, a 104-100 final score. Damian Lillard led Portland with 30 points but missed a jumper with 27 seconds left down two that could have tied it. The Blazers also failed to corral a rebound late that could have given them one last chance to tie it up or win. Instead, the Clippers came away with the ball and the game with a pair of free throws. L.A.’s Tobias Harris led all scorers with 34.
Change in the starting lineup
For the first time this year, Portland produced a change to the starting lineup. Maurice Harkless, who played under a 20-minute limit, got the nod at small forward in place of Jake Layman. Neither Harkless nor Layman had played particularly well of late, but the Blazers head coach and birthday boy, Terry Stotts, elected to go with his familiar starting lineup from last year, to mix it up. Layman did not play.
Harkless failed to impress in his first start of the season but there were some good signs for the sixth-year wing. Early in the game, he caught Clippers point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on a switch and beasted him in the post for the easy bucket. He followed up a possession later with an open dunk on the break. Those would prove his only points of the game. Defensively, Hark switched well but struggled to keep guys in front of him. He went back to locker room at one point in the third quarter but did return to the bench. Moe is clearly is not operating at 100 percent yet. Portland could have used a healthy Harkless to slow down Tobias Harris, for whom the Blazers had no answer in the first three quarters.
Down goes Nurk... and the lead
Jusuf Nurkic did not join the team on the court to start the second half due to a reported right shoulder contusion. He did not return. He would be missed. The Blazers entered the break with a 58-45 halftime lead, but an abysmal 38-16 third quarter was too much to overcome. Nurkic’s absence wasn't the only problem; the Blazers shot 1-10 on three pointers in the period. Nurkic was the only starter with a positive plus/minus
Damian Lillard - Lillard struggled shooting the ball most of the night from deep, but when Portland found themselves down 7 with just over 2 minutes left, he put up 7 points in two possessions. (Yeah, really) Even when struggling from deep, he still found ways to get in the lane. He finished an efficient 9-14 inside the arc. He missed his final two shots, which could have grabbed the lead or tied it up for Portland, but his big 7 point run was the only reason Portland was in it in the first place.
CJ McCollum - CJ also struggled shooting the ball but managed to hit a few big shots at the end of the game. He also pulled down some huge offensive rebounds in traffic. He finished with 3 ‘O’ boards on the game.
Evan Turner - Turner had his best scoring game of the season with 17 points on 7-14 shooting. Defensively, he was tasked with trying to slow down Tobias Harris late. Harris set a career high with 34 points, but he was held to just 3 in the fourth quarter when Turner was on him full-time. Turner is playing as well as we have seen him in a Blazers uniform.
Meyers Leonard - Meyers did his best to fill the shoes of Nurkic, and no one can say he didn’t do his part. He rebounded the ball with tenacity, ripping down 16, including 6 offensive boards. If Nurkic misses any time, tonight’s Meyers is the one Portland fans hope to see. Also, when Portland needed a basket, everything came off of a monster screen set by Meyers. A terrific all around game for him tonight.
Al Farouq-Aminu - Another rough game for Chief. He finished 0-4 from the field, all from 3-point range, just 2 games after posting a 1-13 outing against the Milwaukee Bucks. Portland needs him to be more effective offensively (obviously).
Zach Collins - Collins fouled out in less than 20 minutes for the second time in the last 5 games. He had 5 fouls in 13 minutes in another one of those games. I love his aggression, but it only counts when he stays on the court. If Nurkic misses significant time, Collins will be needed.
The third quarter collapse ultimately did Portland in. Blame the poor offense and 1-10 shooting from distance for the lackluster 16 points they scored. Giving up 38 alongside was ridiculous. It was one of the worst quarters Portland has played at home this season. After a grueling six-game road trip, I figured Portland would have a little more bounce in their step on their first night home. Coming out flat like that will not get it done against a team that lives off of outworking opponents. Tonight’s 34-10 free throw disparity towards the Clippers was no accident. For all the bad shooting, the Blazers still shot the three-ball better than the Clippers. Los Angeles just outfought them.
Portland has now lost 3 in a row and has fallen to 6th place in the conference.
Up Next: The Blazers take on the Orlando Magic at the Moda Center on Wednesday