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Blazers Wilt Under Clippers’ Postseason-Like Pressure

The Clippers smothered Damian Lillard throughout the night and cruised to a 133-116 win over the Trail Blazers.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers handed the Trail Blazers their second loss in three games via a 133-116 result on Tuesday. Portland fell behind early to Los Angeles, surrendering 47 points to Paul George and the Clippers in the opening frame. The Blazers managed to claw back within single digits, but the Clippers’ all-out defensive approach against Damian Lillard kept Portland’s comeback attempt short of the mark.

Individually, Norman Powell picked up the scoring load for the Blazers with 32 points. Lillard, who faced pressure throughout the night, was held to 11 points. For the Clippers, George and Kawhi Leonard combined for 65 points.

You can check out or quarter-by-quarter breakdown in our instant recap. Along with that analysis, here are the key points that stood out in the Clippers’ 17-point win over the Blazers.

Postseason-Like Pressure

The Blazers’ offense received an early taste of postseason defense on Tuesday. The Clippers, from the opening tip, focused on getting the ball out of Lillard’s hands early and often. This is not something new for the Blazers, but that game plan derailed Portland’s offense in a big way.

Derrick Jones Jr. earned the Aminu-all-alone award—one could say that Jones earned a AAA rating from Los Angeles. The Clippers dared the former Heat forward to shoot every time he was on the floor, and Jones rarely made Los Angeles pay for that decision.

On the bright side, Powell and Enes Kanter made the most of their increased role. Powell sliced through the Clippers’ defense with ease and mixed things up with catch-and-shoot attempts from beyond the arc. While it didn’t show up in the final result, Powell possess the tools to thrive when opponents sell out on stopping Lillard. The former Raptors guard finished with 32 points and four rebounds.

McCollum Takes the Reins

With Lillard smothered, McCollum filled in as lead facilitator. Make no mistake, the former Lehigh standout is a dynamic offensive player. But the gravity he generates is drastically different from his backcourt running mate. Still, McCollum and Kanter executed a handful of two-man actions to perfection. Kanter, who notched another double-double night, consistently produced favorable looks in pick-and-roll sets.

As a facilitator, McCollum recorded six assists and committed just a single turnover. On top of that, he added 24 points of his own to the final tally.

Squeezing the Margins

The Blazers won the offensive rebounding battle, attempted seven more free throws and committed fewer turnovers in Tuesday’s loss. Regardless of that favorable trio of outcomes, the Blazers ended up on the wrong end of a double-digit margin. On paper, it is a perfect representation of the difficulties bad defensive teams must navigate against quality opponents.

Before the Blazers managed to gain their footing, the Clippers produced 47 points in a single quarter. Paul George notched 22 points before Portland’s first double team materialized. Even after an improved defensive performance in the final three quarters, the Clippers still managed to shoot 51.7 percent from the field.

Absent Bench

Before pulling the plug with four minutes to go in the final frame, the Blazers had just six players with double-digit minutes. For context, the Clippers had nine players above 10 minutes at that same junction. In the points column, Portland’s reserves produced 21 points on 24 attempts from the field. Reggie Jackson, who played 26 minutes off the bench for the Clippers, recorded 23 points on 12 attempts from the field.

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Box Score

The Blazers return to action on Thursday to face the Jazz.