The shorthanded LA Clippers took on the Portland Trailblazers at the Staples Center on March 4th in front of a sell out crowd. LA controlled pretty much the whole game but ended up losing in overtime. The Blazers scratched their way back tying the game on Nicolas Batum’s 3 pointer near the end of regulation and Chris Paul missed a running bank shot with about one second left in regulation. Portland took the lead for good in OT and held on for the big win 98-93 despite Damian Lillard’s worst shooting night as a pro. He did grab a career high 18 rebounds in this strange game where it goes to show you it is never over until the final buzzer.
Paul and JJ Redick dominated the first half to give the Clippers the lead and they finished with 36 points and 26 respectively. One big key was Chris Paul getting his 4th foul in the 3rd quarter which helped the visitors climb back in the game as LA looked confused without him. Paul also added 12 assists. DeAndre Jordan ended with 19 rebounds but missed 6 straight free throws late in the 4th quarter that could have put the game away when Portland went to the hack a Jordan. Glen Big Baby Davis showed a lot of energy and played well but also missed 2 key free throws late in the game.
LA played without Blake Griffin again but also missed Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes so they were very shorthanded. They were lucky as Portland really had an off night shooting with Lillard going 1-3 and LaMarcus Aldridge going 12-30 but he did end with 29 points. Batum started fast with 10 points in the first quarter and then didn’t score till late in the game and overtime.
Both teams shot 39% for the game but LA shot 8-18 on free throws. Portland’s depth, composure and key shots late helped them win the game in a battle for seeding and home court in the playoffs.
I interviewed a bunch of the Blazers after the game including Coach Terry Stotts who said his team has belief from coming back as they have done it so many times when I asked how they stay so composed when they are down. Also when asked about the hack a Jordan, he said, “ We had to lengthen the game and even though we didn’t end up hitting our shots, it changed the rhythm and got the ball out of Paul’s hands. I asked Batum about his game tying shot and struggle this year. He said, “ I have put a lot of pressure on myself. The team found a way tonight and LaMarcus told me to shoot when I had the open three pointer that tied up the game.” I asked him if this could be a key point for his season and he said yes, it has given him confidence as well as the team believing in him. I asked Robin Lopez how he had fit in so well. He told me, I do the little things to help the team and keep positive.” Lastly, I talked to new addition Aaron Afflalo about his new team and his first response was, “I like winning. My game should open it up for everyone else as I am a physical player.” I asked backup center Myers Leonard how the team stays so focused and how he is so into the game as well as his new 3 point shooting. He said, I am a team player and keep positive. I give energy to spark the team. I have practiced my three point shooting since last year and over the summer so I am confident and just let it go.”
On a sad note, Portland guard Wesley Matthews tore his achilles tendon the night after this game vs. Dallas and is out for the season. I had asked him about the adjustment when guarding JJ Redick who was on fire in the first half. “We had to step it up to deny him of so many good looks and play him more physical.: The Clippers signed explosive guard Nate Robinson to a 10 day contract to fill in the void from Crawford’s injury. Barnes should be back any game now and Griffin is coming along a bit slower. More at www.laclippers.com