Best of the Season, Part XVII: Blazers win 13th straight, starters dominate Clippers

As we near the end of our Best of the Season series, we find ourselves back in Los Angeles for another tilt against the Clippers.

Unlike the Portland Trail Blazers, the Los Angeles Clippers did not make the 2018 NBA playoffs.

However, very much like the Blazers, the Clippers also petered out down the stretch, losing their final four games and six of their final seven.

But while Portland had clinched a playoff berth April 1, the Clips were eliminated from playoff contention in their 80th game, a loss to the Denver Nuggets.

And yet, when the Blazers traveled to the STAPLES Center in L.A. for a March 18 game, the Clippers were still very much in the playoff hunt.

Portland’s win — their 13th in a row and one of their best of the season — put a major dent in the Clippers’ playoff aspirations.

The Blazers’ Winning Streak

Portland entered their match-up with the Clippers having won 12 straight games. It was already one of their longest winning streaks in franchise history. And they’d beaten several quality opponents — the Warriors (twice), Utah, Minnesota and OKC, to name a few — along the way.

Furthermore, the Blazers had firmly established themselves as one of the league’s best defensive squads. And they were getting solid minutes and contributions from a host of role players, including Ed Davis, Pat Connaughton, Zach Collins and Shabazz Napier.

But against the Clippers, it was the starters’ turn to shine.

And boy did they ever.

Blazers-Clippers

Portland beat the L.A. Clippers 122-109 on the night in question. And all five starters scored at least 16 points.

Damian Lillard led the way with 23 points. C.J. McCollum and a resurgent Maurice Harkless scored 21 points each, and they both had five rebounds. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points. And Al-Farouq Aminu finished with 16 points to go along with eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Nurkic was active on the boards and on defense, grabbing 12 boards and blocking four shots.

Harkless, though, was especially good, once again providing a glimpse of the kind of difference-maker he can be when he is fully engaged. He shot 8/11 from the field, including 3/4 from three. And his 21 points were his second-highest scoring total of the season.

The Clippers’ starters weren’t able to put together much of a counterattack, although they got effective contributions from a couple of their bench players. Lou Williams went for 30 points. And his bench-mate, Montrezl Harrell had 24 points, his third-highest total of the season.

Clearly not enough to beat Portland, though. Thus, the Blazers left L.A. with their 13th straight win. They would lose their next two games to the Rockets and the Celtics, but the memory of this win streak will definitely last a long time.

One last thing: This victory secured Terry Stotts’ place as the third-winningest coach in Trail Blazers history.

Stotts needs just 20 more wins to pass Rick Adelman for second place all-time.

And catching Dr. Jack … ? Well, that’s gonna take a little more time.

Let’s hope he’s around long enough to do it.

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