The Portland Trailblazers started four rookies and J.J. Hickson in a game the Los Angeles Clippers desperately needed to win to stay on track for home court advantage in the playoffs. Which meant one of two things: either the Clippers would come out with zero energy and be in trouble, or the undermanned Blazers would be overwhelmed and get blown out of STAPLES Center.
Or maybe both things would happen.
The Clippers weren't particularly good in this one, but that was still a lot better than the baby Blazers. Early in the second quarter, the Clippers led by a single point, but the second unit put together a 15-0 run and the game was never close again.
The Clippers starting front court of Caron Butler (22 points), Blake Griffin (16) and DeAndre Jordan (10) combined to shoot 20-28 and backup center Ryan Hollins scored nine points on 4-5 shooting, and it didn't much matter beyond those guys.
In the end, the Clippers did what was expected, did what they needed to do. They are tied with Memphis on the season and a game behind the Nuggets. A win tomorrow night in Sacramento assures them of home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and if by some chance Denver loses to Phoenix, it will move the Clippers up into the third seed. This was also the Clippers sixth straight win, tied for the second longest win streak of the season behind their historic 17 gamer. Coming on the heels of a three game losing streak, this winning streak is exactly what the Clippers needed to dispel the doubts and help them head into the postseason with confidence.
The game marked the return to the lineup of Chauncey Billups, and Chauncey looked, shall we say, rusty. He was missed all five of his shots from the field in 17 minutes, including four three point attempts, and only one of them came particularly close to going in. Maybe this was the game that Chauncey needed to get out of his system -- or maybe Chauncey's going to struggle shooting the ball as he has all season outside of two white-hot games. He did make four free throws and hand out five assists, but it was far from the triumphant return we might have hoped for -- not to mention a lot worse from a shooting perspective than what we've come to expect from Willie Green lately.
The Blazers didn't put up much resistance tonight, but what matters is the W. Now it's time to move on to Sacramento. The Sleep Train Arena will be charged in what could be the last NBA game ever played in California's Capital (the NBA today announced that the relocation vote would be delayed beyond this week's meetings so we won't know for a while still). But if the Kings will be playing for civic pride, the Clippers will be playing for a vital playoff seed -- that plus the talent advantage should be more than enough to carry the team to the win.
For the Portland perspective on tonight's game, visit BlazersEdge.
|Final - 4.16.2013||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Portland Trail Blazers||24||13||20||20||77|
|Los Angeles Clippers||28||26||28||11||93|