Any hope that the Portland Trail Blazers would carry momentum from their blowout victory against the Phoenix Suns to the road was quickly extinguished Monday night at Staples Center. The Blazers combined poor shooting and lethargic play for a 116-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, falling to 1-2 on the young season.
The Clippers jumped out to a 31-17 lead after the first quarter and never looked back, riding an all-around effort from Paul George and dynamic performance from their bench en route to their first victory of the year. Damian Lillard suffered through another rough outing, going 0-8 from three-point land, and the Blazers committed an unsightly 30 turnovers in the defeat. CJ McCollum again paced Portland’s offense, scoring 20 points, while Luke Kennard led all scorers with 23 off of the Clipper bench.
For a detailed rundown of the action, see our Instant Recap.
Sluggish and Sloppy
While the first few minutes seemed to indicate that a competitive game was in store, things started going south when Portland’s shots stopped falling, and quickly snowballed. It wasn’t just poor shooting that doomed the Blazers, however. Portland in general played with a lack of focus, turning the ball over at an alarming rate, while looking a step (or four) slow on defensive rotations. Jusuf Nurkic’s interior presence was virtually nonexistent on both ends of the floor, and the big man finished with more turnovers (six) than points (four) on the night.
Making matters worse, as the deficit ballooned, the effort just wasn’t there. The Blazers never made anything remotely resembling even the start of a comeback in the game. In fact, they started off the second half looking even poorer than they did in the first half, calling for timeout just over three minutes into the third quarter after an early Clippers run.
Things wound up so ugly that the ROOT Sports broadcast showed footage from the infamous 1970 Florence, Oregon whale explosion midway through the fourth quarter...and it seemed appropriate.
Firing on All Cylinders
While the Blazers were busy turning the ball over, the Clippers utilized stellar ball movement to spread the love offensively, with six players hitting at least four field goals on the night. L.A. ended up with 37 assists on 44 made shots. The biggest beneficiary was Kennard, who took advantage of the poor defensive rotations of Portland to go 6-7 from distance. As a team, the Clippers ended up shooting less than 33% from three, despite a number of wide open looks. However, they finished the night with a 47% overall clip, doing a ton of damage in the midrange and paint.
Clippers star Paul George ended up with a pedestrian 16 points on 6-16 shooting, but made his biggest presence on the defensive end of the floor, accumulating a career-high eight of the team’s 21 steals.
65 of L.A.’s 116 points came from their bench, with Terance Mann joining Kennard in double-figures and Isaiah Hartenstein falling just short of that mark.
Little Gets the Call
There were very few positives to take from the Blazers in this game, but the biggest was the continued solid play of Nassir Little. Stepping into the starting lineup with Norman Powell out to a knee injury, Nas got out to a tremendous start, scoring five of Portland’s first seven points, and finishing with 10 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 32 minutes of action. He was the only Blazer in double-figure scoring to connect on at least 50% of his field goal attempts, going 4-7 overall and 2-4 from downtown.
The Blazers host Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT. They’ll then face the Clippers again on Friday.