LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers took a long time to get going, but stuck with it and outlasted the road-weary Clippers in overtime 116-112.
In his post-game interview, Aldridge admitted that he needed the first three quarters to warm up, but he finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. As a team, the Blazers kept the urgency high, sometimes going faster than was strictly advisable and coughing up the ball a lot. It felt very grindy, despite the scoring coming more freely in the second half. It felt somewhat, dare I say, like a playoff game. And the Blazers prevailed. That’s a comforting thing to see.
Wesley Matthews had the distinction of being the first Blazer to get hot. He had 8 points after one quarter, and also played some nifty defense on Chris Paul throughout, as did many other Blazers in an effort to contain the NBA’s best point guard. Paul finished with 34 points, 16 assists, and 6 (!!!) steals in a magnificent game, but Matthews chipped in 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists of his own. A very tough defensive assignment and a good game from him.
LaMarcus Aldridge just had his wisdom teeth removed, but he looked as pumped and ready as anyone, even if his shot wasn’t falling early. He dialed in late in the game, and, as mentioned, finished with another 30-10 game. His fades over decent Blake Griffin defense were the stuff of magic. Aldridge is a great player, and the Blazers will go as far as his offense allows the floor to be opened up for everyone else.
There are few players in the league today as collected as Damian Lillard. He’s a pleasure to watch pretty much all the time, not just when his shot’s hitting. This wasn’t his strongest game, shooting just 4-12 for 14 points, though he did kick in 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Robin Lopez’s rebounding mechanics are very solid. The way he boxes out… it’s as though he’s creating space for the Blazers to mess up and still get points. It fits perfectly with a shooting team: move the ball, take the shot, who cares if it goes in because you’re expecting an offensive board. He finished with 11 points, 15 rebounds, and a block.
Nicolas Batum‘s miracle three is the reason the game went into overtime. He had no business hitting that streaking left-to-right 3-pointer, except that he did because he’s done it before. The streaking corner three against the Spurs comes to mind. Batum is also showing he can stop on a dime and hang forever on his shots to get open and let defenses blow by. He played solidly all game, getting 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists with a block. As with many other Blazers tonight, turnovers (5 in this case) tarnished his performance. The Blazers had 16 as a team to the Clippers’ 5. That won’t lead you to victory most nights.
Meyers Leonard had an overwhelmingly positive shift (+3) in the 2nd quarter, going for 6 rebounds and an assist in 6 minutes. He continued looking competent in the 2nd half, going straight up and mostly working efficiently while forced to guard Griffin. When Aldridge got his fourth foul early in the third, the bench became very important, and Leonard answered the call. He ended with 2 and 7 in a game where he often looked like he belonged on the court.
Mo Williams caught fire briefly, and otherwise kept the offense moving. He also hit a three to beat the shot clock early in the fourth to keep the energy up. He had 12 points and 8 assists.
Joel Freeland earned his own entry in this list with his verticality and his offensive rebounding. He had 3 o-boards, 8 total. Keeping those possessions alive meant the difference between winning and losing tonight. Good work, Mr. Freeland.
- TNT loves to qualify Blazers success. They did it a few times over the broadcast. They also think the Clippers are a better playoff team than the Blazers. And they said the “Clippers are controlling the game,” as the Blazers were up 1 at half.
- On the flip side, TNT called Aldridge “maybe the MVP of the league” and the “best power forward in the game,” better than Love because the Wolves, “they’re not winning.” Also, Chuck said that the Blazers are “one of about 6 or 7 teams to watch” in the NBA.
- Robin Lopez boxes out oh-so well. Also, his free throw shooting is unexpectedly good. It feels like he’s going to make both each time he steps to the line.
- Meyers got thrown into the fire and came out looking pretty good. I think that’s the first time you could say that any time lately.
- Blake Griffin got away with some handsy fouls, and, just as he goaded Andre Miller into retaliation years ago, one can see why he finds himself on the other end of disproportionate responses.
- The Blazers are winning, and they’re doing it against good teams in more than one way. They’re good. It will be even more fun when CJ McCollum gets back.
The Blazers opened a little hazy and a little out of sorts, shooting just 33% in the first quarter. Fortunately, the Clippers, coming off an emotional, fight-filled loss to the Warriors, playing the second of a back-to-back and 4 games in 5 days, were even further gone. Los Angeles shot 28% in the first quarter.
The Blazers’ passes weren’t crisp, and their shot wasn’t falling, but they took a 19-14 lead after one.
Meyers Leonard again checked in at the start of the 2nd. He sacrificed his body to draw a foul and boxed out well playing alongside Lopez for a very large frontline. The Clippers called time, down 24-16 to the Blazers, whose seemingly new backup center appeared out of nowhere.
The Clippers pushed and got within 3, but Aldridge got hot at the right time and pushed the lead back to 40-31 with 4:20 left in the half. The lead was 8, then 6, then 4 as the Blazers tried Batum on Chris Paul and failed.
Lillard got a technical for arguing with referee Violet Palmer, and the Blazers allow an 11-2 Clippers run at the end of the half that cut the Blazers’ lead to 47-46 entering the third.
The Blazers converted a rare 4-point play as Aldridge hit an and-one and Doc Rivers got a technical foul. Then Lillard nailed a three. Then Matthews did. And their third-quarter storm was in full force as the Blazers’ lead stretched to 8 with 10 minutes left in the third.
Unfortunately, Aldridge got his fourth foul with just 9 minutes left in the third. With the Blazers’ leading scorer benched (he had 15 at the time), the Clippers went on a 8-0 run and cut the lead to 2, forcing a Portland timeout.
Meyers looked sprightly on offense and competent on defense, zipping a pass to Lopez and getting it back to flip it in on one end, then going straight up to disrupt a DeAndre Jordan dunk, but was puzzlingly called for the foul. Fortunately, Jordan missed both, and Batum drew a phantom three-point shooting foul, nailing all three and getting the lead to 66-59 with 6:20 left in the third.
Aldridge got back in the game and the Blazers fed him. He had a few fumbles, looking frustrated and out of rhythm. The Clippers pushed, and the lead shrunk to 3. The Blazers mucked up a fast break opportunity, but held it at 76-73 going into the fourth.
The Blazers forced one-and-dones on the defensive end, giving up some Clippers points but limited their opponents’ offensive rebounding opportunities. A magical, inadvertent bankshot by Aldridge got the lead to 88-77 with 7:30 left.
The Blazers and Clippers traded some threes, with even Griffin getting in on the act, and the Clippers made a push to get the lead down to 3 with six minutes to go, and kept the pressure on.
Lopez got a double-double with a heroic follow to finally give the Blazers a basket during a drought with the game tied at 93. Then Lopez got another very tough tap-out that gave them a Batum three. Batum then rejected Chris Paul on the other end. Offensive rebounds are lifesavers.
The Blazers played extremely hard on defense and kept the ball alive on offense. DeAndre Jordan received his fifth foul, and the Clippers were in the penalty when they sent Wesley Matthews to the line for two with 1:44 left and the game still tied at 95. Matthews made just one.
Chris Paul hit a jumper, then Aldridge tapped in a Batum miss to regain the 1-point lead. Chris Paul responded again on a mismatch, and the Blazers had the ball down 1 with 40 seconds left. The Clippers put Jordan on Aldridge, and he had position very deep… but he bobbled it, and the hole closed quickly. On the other end, Chris Paul used all of the shot clock and put the Clippers up three with 9.1 seconds in the now-grim-looking game.
The Blazers drew up a play to get the ball to Batum at the top of the arc. He was moving left-to-right as you’re looking at the basket, drifting as he shot a three that went straight up and straight down. Boom! The game was tied with 5.3 left and the Clippers had one last shot. Chris Paul got a wide open look, but it caromed off and the game went into overtime.
The Clippers struck first in overtime and (yet again) forced a Blazers turnover, which was fought for and almost, but not quite, recovered by Portland. The Blazers held, and LaMarcus Aldridge fouled out DeAndre Jordan, relieving Aldridge of the biggest obstacle to his low post offense, and getting the and-one. That put the Blazers up 104-103 with 3:24 left in overtime.
Back and forth it went as both teams were playing like they wanted it. Matthews got the Clippers into the penalty and knocked down both free throws to get it to 108-107 with 1:05 left.
Chris Paul got it to Griffin for two, and Aldridge responded with another turnaround. The Blazers (barely) contained Griffin and got the rebound, and Batum was (unnecessarily) sent to the line for two to get the lead to 113-110 with 26 seconds left. Clippers ball. They got a very quick Griffin basket, but, the clock being what it was, they had to foul Lillard, who hit both and got the lead back to 3 at 114-111 with 20 seconds left.
The Clippers, out of timeouts, were probably looking for a three. Crawford got a semi-open runner, drawing a foul on Batum. He missed the first, so the Blazers were up two, 114-112 with 13 seconds left.
Matt Barnes fouled out by hitting Wesley Matthews, and he hit both, putting the Blazers up 116-112 with 10 left. Chris Paul heaved up a prayer three and missed. The Blazers found a way and took the hard-earned victory, 116-112.
The Blazers take on the Heat at 7:00 p.m. Saturday Dec. 28 at the Moda Center. Like the Clippers, The Heat will be on the second on a back-to-back.