The Portland Trail Blazers used a balanced attack to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers and bring their winning streak to 13 straight games tonight. The Blazers traveled to L.A. on the second night of a back to back after beating the Detroit Pistons in Portland yesterday. Damain Lillard led the Blazers in scoring with 23, but all five Portland starters scored 16 points or more in the victory. After a slow start offensively, the Blazers tallied three straight quarters of 30-plus points as they put away the feisty Clippers by a score of 122-109.
Back to the Back-to-Back
From the outset, Portland looked like they were playing an away game on the second night of a back-to-back. That doesn't mean the Blazers weren’t fighting or playing hard, they just didn’t look sharp. CJ McCollum and Maurice Harkless both missed wide open lay-ins, Portland lacked zip in their movements and as a team shot 32% from the field in the first quarter.
The Clippers looked even more dysfunctional on offense, coughing it up 5 times and failing to get good shots or capitalize on the few they did get. Credit the Blazer defense for reading passing lanes, getting deflections, and running down lose balls. Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu led the charge defensively. Thanks to mismatches and a few extra possessions, the Blazers found themselves up by a score of 24-18 after one.
Quarter of 2 Halves
Portland’s lead was short-lived as the Clippers began waltzing and two-stepping their way to the rim at will in the second period. Portland’s early lead became a deficit in less than 4 minutes into the quarter. The offense started to find a rhythm but the interior defense leaked everywhere. The lead bounced back and forth between the two teams until Harkless scored 7 points of a 12-0 run late in the quarter to help the Blazers to a 58-52 lead at the half.
The third quarter was just a ridiculous game of streaks. The Blazers started with a 10-0 run, building the lead up to 16. The Clippers followed with a 9-0 run of their own. The Blazers then worked the lead back to 14, then the Clippers responded with a 7-0 run. Portland really struggled with the physicality of Montrezl Harrell and DeAndre Jordan down low. L.A. scored 27 of their 29 points of the quarter in the key or at the free throw line... a substantial number.
Meanwhile, Portland’s offense was clicking. The ball movement was solid, but they also found mismatches and played the iso. They came across easy buckets under the basket while finding the range from deep. Their scoring wasn’t going to slow down; it was just a question of whether the Clippers could keep up.
The Blazers offense continued to put pressure on L.A. to keep up in the fourth, as Portland hit from all angles. The Blazers starters were all on their game tonight and continued to contribute across the board. A third straight 30+ point quarter gave the Blazers the well-earned victory.
The Show Goes On
The Blazers went on the road—on the second night of a back-to-back, against a very good Clipper team—and just outclassed the opponent. Very few NBA teams could do that. The biggest knock was the Blazer second unit failed to make an impact for the second straight game. Other than that, Portland looked and acted like they were expecting to win, and for the 13th straight game, they did.
Rebounding again proved key (47 to 38 advantage for Portland), as was the three-point line. (Portland shot 14-29 for the game). But this was an all-around effort. They Blazers are doing a lot of things really well right now. Focus, attitude, and results reflect it.
Maurice Harkless - The Clippers started the non-defense oriented point guard Milos Teodosic on Harkless and Moe just ate him up. Not only was Harkless a major factor on the defensive side of the ball, but he was a bully in the post, running the floor to get position to seal smaller Clipper gaurds. He also knocked in a couple threes. Harkless proved the best player on the Blazers in the first half and finished the game with 21 points on 11 shots. Huge game.
Al-Farouq Aminu - Along with Harkless, Aminu has been a defensive monster lately. 16 points, 4 threes, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals from Aminu made a big difference tonight. Portland vaults to another tier team if one or both of these two is on.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum - The boxscore says Portland’s star guards were up to their usual shenanigans, combining for 44 points on 15-30 shooting. But this game was a bit different. The Clippers’ backcourt of Sindarius Thornwell and Austin Rivers made life very tough on Dame and CJ. Not only did the twin stars have trouble getting good looks, they hard to work just to get the ball in good position. Lillard and McCollum still played well but they combined for just 5 assists and were relatively quiet on a lot of possessions. That put a lot of pressure on the rest of the team to make plays. Fortunately, they did.
Shabazz Napier - Shabazz backed up Stumptown Coffee’s commercial claim by being ‘the man’ in the first quarter. When the respective second units entered the game, the Clippers started cruising. Harrell and Lou Williams were able to get anything they wanted. Portland needed someone off the bench to punch back. Napier did that and more by going 4-4 in the first half with 9 points. He finished the game with a team high 8 assists.
Jusuf Nurkic - Just a day after having to battle with Andre Drummond, Nurkic was assigned the mega-human, DeAndre Jordan. Nurk struggled at times, settling for jumpers and hurrying interior shots. He did manage to find spurts of easy finishes, especially on the pick and roll, and he rebounded the ball well. He was a monster in the fourth quarter, bothering or blocking practically every shot anywhere near the rim. He definitely didn’t struggle quite as much as...
Ed Davis: Ed got his money’s worth, ripping down 6 rebounds, 2 offensive and 6 fouls in 11 minutes. Good work Ed.