Portland 93 - Clippers 85 - A Loss I Can Live With

Although the Clippers lost their sixth consecutive game tonight, this one was much more palatable than most of them have been.  For one thing, the Clippers competed until the end, even after falling behind by 21 one minute into the fourth quarter.  And although the Clippers fourth quarter rally never got the lead under eight, it's not as if we expected or need or even wanted to actually win this game.  Just making it entertaining is enough at this point.  Sure, it would have been nice to convert a few more opportunities that were wasted in the fourth.  Sure, I'd like to have the DeAndre Jordan outlet pass back, or get a better shot out of the timeout with 2 minutes left, but all in all it's hard to complain about this game.

Consider that we missed the entire 12-0 run the Blazers used to build their initial lead in the first quarter, while Prime Ticket was covering the Dodgers extra inning loss to the Pirates.  If you think about it, given that we missed pretty much that entire 12-0 run, the Clippers won the parts we saw AND stayed behind the Knicks - a win-win of a loss. 

Consider also that the third quarter, which the Blazers won 27-14, was not a particularly bad quarter for the Clippers.  Brandon Roy just sort of took them apart, while the Clippers for whatever reason couldn't get shots to stay down.  The Clippers didn't play bad defense - Roy just scored anyway.  The Clippers didn't get bad shots - they just didn't go in.  It was the kind of quarter, where if you watched the film possession by possession with everything except the final result (i.e. you see the move and the shot, but not whether or not the ball went in), you'd think it was a pretty even quarter.  You might even think the Clippers had won.  But they lost it 27-14.  Hard to get to upset about that.  The ball just wouldn't go in.

Roy though was just great.  He scored 10 in the quarter, opening the period with three straight scores - against three different defenders.  Baron Davis on the first play, Eric Gordon on the second, and Rasual Butler on the third, all played him pretty well.  He's just too good to stop one on one.  He bookended that start with a killer basket at the third quarter horn to stretch the lead out to 17.  And in between it seemed as if everything the Blazers got started with Roy - forcing a double team, getting the Clippers to scramble, getting them out of position.  The guy is good.

The most entertaining part of the game by far from a Clippers perspective was watching Steve Blake go off in the fourth quarter.  He told Mike Smith before the game that he didn't particularly care that he was playing his former team, that it was just another game to him, but that clearly wasn't the case.  Maybe it was the matchup with Jerryd Bayless at the start of the fourth.  Maybe it was just familiarity with his former team.  Whatever the reason, Blake was far more aggressive on offense than we've ever seen him as a Clipper.  He scored his Clipper high of 14 points, which tied with with Kaman and Baron for game high honors for the team, and had eight of them in the fourth during the Clippers attempted comeback. 

The other thing that was particularly fun was the battle between Andre Miller and Baron Davis, as I suspected it might be.  Baron chased Andre down and challenged a layup, forcing a miss, on a play that he would have conceded against most other players I suspect.  He drew a charge from Miller in the fourth.  On another occasion when Baron had Andre beat, Miller just pushed him to the ground.  Of course Andre's team had the overall advantage in the game, but the individual battle between the two LA high school point guards was fun as well.

Blake played then entire fourth quarter, and another high scorer for the Clippers played none of it.  Through three quarters, Chris Kaman had 14 points himself, on 7 for 14 shooting, and had been pretty effective on offense.  But with DeAndre Jordan grabbing seemingly every defensive rebound in the quarter, and the Clippers mounting a furious comeback, Kim Hughes decided to stick with the unit that was getting him back in the game.  It's hard to argue with the strategy.

With four games left, and three of them at home, the Clippers have dropped to an even .500, 19-19, as hosts.  That's after being 18-12 at one point.  The good news I suppose is that Don Nelson's Warriors won tonight, giving Nellie the all time wins record, meaning that Golden State won't be viewing Saturday's game as the must-win last chance to get the record.  I guess I'm torn on that - it might have been nice to see some history at Clips Nation Night, but you never really want history to be made at your team's expense.

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