The Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers engaged in a three-ring circus of offense today, demonstrating plenty of firepower and comparatively little defense. In the end, a big three-point shot by Rodney McGruder and a pair of missed free throws from Damian Lillard decided the game in the oddest fashion imaginable. Portland’s lack of defense allowed the Clippers to steal the game, 122-117.
The Blazers’ streak of fortune with opponent injuries continues, as Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley—both strong defenders—sat out the game. From the opening tip, Portland looked unconcerned about LA’s ability to stop them, with every player on the floor putting up shots easily and confidently.
Hassan Whiteside was out with a hip strain. Losing Whiteside for Leonard and Beverley is a trade the Blazers will take.
Portland put in a gorgeous offensive performance, scoring from everywhere with everyone, topping 50% from the field for most of the game and finishing at 49%. Carmelo Anthony was beautiful from the mid-range, Damian Lillard brilliant outside and in. Screens were tight, passes crisp. It was everything one could imagine.
BUT...the Clippers stayed close because Portland couldn’t defend. The Clips didn’t just go HAM, they glazed it. Paul George got clear shots against individual defenders, then passed to open shooters when the Blazers blitzed him. Throughout the game, the Clippers got layups in the halfcourt, space on their jumpers, and the usual threes.
Back and Forth
The end result of Portland’s bad defense: all the amazing offense produced only a 3-point lead after one, 6 points at the half. The Clippers erased that by midway through the third and the lead was only 1 going into the fourth.
It was nip and tuck from then onward, with missed shots defining the tense environment as much as makes. Doc Rivers went with an all-substitute lineup down by 5 with two minutes left...a signal that the game didn’t mean quite as much to LA as to Portland. The Blazers couldn’t even defend them well. Portland played sloppy during the closing possessions, failing to stop the Clippers at the arc. The Blazers still had a chance down 118-117 with 19 seconds left and Lillard at the line. Damian missed both. LA won the battle of the foul line after that.
Trent and Lillard and Nurkic, Oh My!
Gary Trent Jr. hit 6 of 10 three-pointers on his way to 22 points. His contributions on the defensive end were strong too. Critically, he refused to back down from Paul George, even getting into jawing matches with the bona fide Clippers star.
Damian Lillard shot like nobody was guarding him no matter who was. When the Clippers tried to take over the game in the fourth quarter by doubling him—the same way the Blazers went at George—Lillard showed leadership and acumen by distributing the ball. Portland’s offense kept right on chugging. Dame finished with 22 points, but missed 8 of 10 threes and those two crucial foul shots late. (CJ McCollum, meanwhile, went 11-21, 6-13 from the arc for a game-high 29.)
Jusuf Nurkic threatened a triple-double with 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists. He also fouled out, despite appearing concerned with not picking up fouls for most of the game.
The Blazers play the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 PM, Pacific.