After a blowout win over the Suns and a day of rest, the Blazers had to be feeling good coming into Wednesday night. The Blazers and Clippers were separated by just a half game in the Western Conference standings, and the winner would likely come away with home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. These teams last met in LA on March 4th, when the Blazers managed to steal a win behind a combination of hitting some tough shots and DeAndre Jordan missing free throws.
Portland looked great at the start. Everything seemed to be falling, and LaMarcus Aldridge continued his stretch of red-hot first quarters. LMA finished the first with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including a long two at the buzzer. The Blazers shot 62 percent from the field in the first, and led 33-26.
The Trail Blazers continued to make shots early on in the second, and it looked as if we were on our way to a result similar to Monday’s game. Portland stretched the lead to as many as 19 early in the quarter, but the Clippers didn’t go away easily. The LA offense started clicking, and Portland’s simultaneously began to stall. Midway through the second, the Clippers had brought it within five. Fortunately, the Blazers managed to weather the storm before the half, and went into the locker room with a comfortable 68-55 lead.
The third quarter was much more balanced, with neither of the two teams going on any big runs. In the last minute or so of the quarter, things got interesting. Chris Kaman was seemingly frustrated with Chris Paul, and blatantly shoved him to the floor. On the replay, it looked as if Paul hit Kaman in the groin before the push occurred. Either way, Kaman was called for a flagrant one, and that was that. The Clippers outscored the Blazers by six in the quarter, and cut the deficit to just seven going into the final period.
The fourth was an absolute disaster. Chris Paul couldn’t miss, and the Los Angeles defense had taken LaMarcus Aldridge completely out of the game. The Portland lead that was once at 19 was quickly gone, and the Blazers seemed to be completely out of it. Eventually, Terry Stotts turned to the infamous Hack-A-Jordan strategy, which helped the Blazers win last time they played in Los Angeles. Jordan missed his share of free throws, but Portland gave up some crucial offensive rebounds that looked to end any chance of a miraculous comeback. But, in typical Blazers fashion, the home team wasn’t quite done. Portland had cut the lead to three, and JJ Reddick probably should have been called for an offensive foul on the following possession. While it’s tough to see a call like that missed, it’s hard to argue about officiating when your team was ahead by 19 at one point. Chris Paul hit some free throws to seal the win, and the Blazers fell to the Clippers by a score of 126-122.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the way for the Trail Blazers, finishing with 29 points and six rebounds. Nicolas Batum had 21 points, four assists, four rebounds, and three steals while Damian Lillard put up a double-double of 18 points and 10 assists.
- Shooting percentage: Portland 51% — LA 54%
- Three point percentage: Portland 52% — LA 54%
- Free throws: Portland 19-25 — LA 19-24
- Rebounds: Portland 43 — LA 40
- Assists: Portland 25 — LA 30
- Points in the paint: Portland 38 — LA 26
- Fastbreak points: Portland 8 — LA 7
- Bench points: Portland 33 — LA 17
- LaMarcus Aldridge now has 536 first quarter points this season, second-most in the NBA behind James Harden.
- Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge combined for 35 first half points on 14-of-19 shooting.
- Batum scored 21 points, his first 20 point game since March 4th, also against the Clippers.
- The magic number to clinch the Northwest Division is now one.
This one may come back to bite the Blazers when the regular season comes to a close a few weeks down the road. Portland will have tomorrow off before facing the Lakers in LA on Friday night.
Update: Trail Blazers PR reports that Dorell Wright sustained a fracture of his 4th metacarpal bone tonight in his left hand. Not good losing depth this close to the playoffs.