The LA Clippers have struggled early this year including the pre-season but they pulled off a big win vs. the tough Portland Trailblazers in a rare afternoon game at the Staples Center on November 8th. Portland came out blazing scoring at will as they were on fire in the first quarter scoring 38 points. With JJ Redick having perhaps his best game of his career with the team going 11-13 and finishing with 30 points including a circus running shot falling away from the basket to end the first half. Chris Paul added 22 points and 11 assists. Blake Griffin battled through a stomach bug to score 23 and Jamal Crawford added 20 points. The team was lucky to win this one as they didn’t get much from their bench and their defense was suspect. The Blazers got cold in the second half scoring only 40 total points as LA won 106-102.
Damien Lillard led the way for Portland with 25 points but they got balanced scoring from their starting lineup as usual (All Star LaMarcus Aldridge added 21, Robin Lopez was very effective with 19, Wes Mathews had 14 and Nicolas Batum chipped in 10 points). Their weakness is their bench as they picked up Steve Blake and Chris Kaman in the off season. Blake was scoreless and Kaman had 8 points of their 13 total bench points with CJ Mccollum had the other 5. Too many turnovers and ill-advised shots and offensive possessions down the stretch did the visitors in. They live and die by the outside shot and as Charles Barkley has said, that is not the way to win vs. very good teams or to get deep into the playoffs.
Matt Barnes came off the bench from his usual starting small forward position but didn’t have a good game. Newcomer and backup center Spencer Hawes had a very good year last year with Philadelphia and can shoot and pass very well for a big man but also had a poor game. Reggie Bullock should be a key contributor this season but didn’t play. Glen “big baby” Davis has skills but still looks a bit out of shape and Jordan Farmer has his work cut out to replace the energetic and still improving Darren Collison, who left for Sacramento as a free agent. That was the teams biggest loss in my opinion as Collison provided speed, energy and great defense.
Redick said after the game the team bounced back after the tough first quarter and hung in there. He was also impressed with Griffin battling through his sickness. He also said he was very emotional as his 11 week old son attended the game with his wife and he was brought onto the court right before the game which must have inspired JJ and pumped him up for the game.
Griffin said the team put it together in the third and especially the fourth quarter with quite a few guys coming up big. Blake mentioned the team doctor asked if he wanted to sit out the game but there was no way he was going to miss the game, he added. He gave props to Portland but said it was good to this big win. He complimented DeAndre Jordan for his defense and rebounding and said it all started with defense to get ahead and win this game while JJ, Jamal and Chris got hot and hit more shots in the second half. Coach Doc Rivers said JJ and Jamal had their hot streaks and Big Baby showed great energy and took some charges. Rivers said the key to the game was not allowing Portland to get offensive rebounds and slowing down their 3 point shots after the first quarter. Both happened and LA adjusted and came out and played. Doc had Jordan guard Aldridge in the second half and said he was very pleased how that went along with making their others make plays. Lastly, he mentioned the team hasn’t found their identity yet but it is very early in the season. Next up are the defending champion Spurs so Doc said he will go watch their game tonight vs. New Orleans to scout them. Doc mentioned he is still trying to figure out how to use Hawes with limited minutes and to reduce the frustration.
New Clippers President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker was hired by new owner Steve Ballmer right after their first meeting after interviewing many candidates. She has big plans to help promote the team and increase ticket sales as she has a great background including being president of International Speedway Corporation’s Auto Club Speedway since 2005 in Fontana.
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