Well, that turned out to be more entertaining than I thought.
In a game that featured reserves galore, the Portland Trail Blazers eked out your Los Angeles Clippers to officially put an end to what was the best regular season in Clippers history.
The game tipped off as the Oklahoma City Thunder stole a game they had been losing all night to the lowly Pistons, in a game that included a double digit 4th quarter deficit for the home Thunder. The Grizzlies used a late spurt to defeat the Mavs in Memphis as well. So, instead of awkwardly rooting to meet a familiar battering ram in the playoff-tested Grizzlies in order to get homecourt in the second round, the Clips instead draw a Andrew Bogut-less Warrior squad. I'm sure many would have preferred homecourt in those first two rounds, but maybe it's best to not look too far ahead. And, purely from a the standpoint of a Clipper fan, it's not a bad change of pace to leave the Grindhouse for a bit.
So with nothing to play for on both ends, you saw a lot of what you'd expect out of both teams' star players: rest. The Blazer starters sans LaMarcus Aldridge played the first quarter and pretty much stat out the rest of the night. (DeAndre Jordan started the game but was pulled faster than you can say Vinny Del Negro.) After seeing what felt like hours of blown pick and roll coverage leading to easy Robin Lopez paths to the basket, the Blazers mediocre bench took on the Clippers talented but rusty bench. And the second quarter felt like more of the first, to the point where this game felt like it was going to be a blowout.
But the third quarter happened, and it turned out to be fun. The Clippers outscored the Blazers 33-14 in the 3rd, fueled by a 17-0 run that cut what seemed like an insurmountable Blazers lead to a single point. In the midst of the run, the Clippers finally saw Jamal Crawford's swagger return in full effect, which was the most reassuring thing to see all night. After starting the game miserably, Crawford had a nice 3rd quarter with 13 of his game high 34 points, including another 4 point play. It was a very welcomed sign after JCrossover's shot was completely off in the first half, and the Blazer boobirds were out in full effect by the time he got to the line for his 4 point play.
Once the Clippers took the lead, the game went back and forth, and the Clippers ultimately came up short. What would have been arguably agonizing ended up just a loss in what was a nice extended run of play for the backups.
A few things:
-In a game like this, you're bound to hear a bunch of things you wouldn't normally hear. My favorite: Ralph complimenting Jared Dudley on a nice back to the basket move in the post. Throwback to Boston College right there for Dudley.
-Is it just me, or has Hedo Turkoglu been looking pretty good recently? He's always been very savvy, and I feel like his body, slow as it is, has been catching up to his head some as the season has progressed. Now Hedo isn't going to be playing minutes in the 30s or anything, but I've become less terrified of the idea of putting him out there to play some sparse meaningful minutes. Much less terrified than say, Reggie Bullock.
-Nice games from Darren Collison and Matt Barnes. Barnes in particular looked like he really knew how short the team was tonight and crashed the boards a lot, doing a ton of those little things the team loves him for, without chucking tooooo much. Collison had a nice statline, but it didn't feel like he made as much of an impact as the stats had shown. Maybe because he badly missed a few threes, and he's been hitting them all season. And because he deferred to Jamal tonight, which is probably how it will go in the postseason as well.
-Some great Willie Green things out there. Green was moving off the ball plenty like his name was J.J. Redick, detracting from the hero ball we'd normally see mostly from Crawford and some from Collison. Nice to see all that movement off the ball tonight, particularly in the second half when the team put it together some. Collison and Crawford did their share of passing too, combining for 15 assists.
-Glen Davis is also played alright, but boy his physical limitations were a bit on display here.. Luckily the Warriors aren't too long without Bogut, but against there are contenders that are very long that could come up after them. The Clips were outrebounded 65-42 tonight.
-C.J. McCollum always looks like a nice keeper whenever I see him play. He had a great stretch at the end of the 3rd in the last game against the Clippers in Staples, too. Took him a while to get going, but he had more of the same quality play in the 4th. Will Barton looks like a nice athlete, too, for whatever that's worth. That Blazer bench isn't great, but there's some potential. That stat about two starting lineups all season is amazing.
-I switched briefly to ESPN, heard Jon Barry, and switched back to Prime. Yeesh.
Up next, the real games begin. Say hello to Stephen Curry and the streaky Golden State Warriors, in the series most analysts will tell you will be the most fun of the first round. I don't know if you've heard but, these two teams do not like each other!
For the Blazers perspective, check out Blazers Edge