The Los Angeles Clippers came down the court, with just under four minutes remaining in a tightly contested game. Chris Paul brought the ball down the left side of the court in his typical trot, coming off of a Blake Griffin screen and hitting the All-NBA power forward for a mid-range jumper in a sequence of events all too familiar to the Clippers' foes.
Fortunately, max-contract center DeAndre Jordan was in good position under the basket, and tapped the ball back out to keep the play alive for the Clippers. Looking for a shot that would tie the game, Chris Paul slithered around another Griffin screen, and this time when Ed Davis stayed on Blake, Paul pulled up to take one of his patented elbow jumpers.
On the other end, Damian Lillard made a 25-footer from the left wing off of a C.J. McCollum drive. On the Blazers' next possession, Lillard pulled up from about 28 feet to nail another trey from the left wing. On the Blazers' next possession, big man Mason Plumlee completed a three point play off of a Clippers turnover. On the next Blazers possession, Plumlee drew another foul. Then, Lillard hit another 28-foot shot from the same spot on the left wing.
An 85-87 deficit with possession and 3:58 remaining had turned into a 87-100 deficit 132 seconds later, and a chance for the slumping Clippers to nap a road win on the second game of a back-to-back turned into a skid-ending victory for the home team.
The earlier events of the game were largely uneventful. McCollum and Lillard both got their points, but neither played spectacularly through 44 minutes. On the other side of the ball, J.J. Redick and Chris Paul both struggled offensively, and Jamal Crawford was the only Clipper who found his stroke from outside. Blake Griffin came up limping on a non-contact play in the first quarter, only to return later in the half looking pretty bad, and then finish the game looking pretty normal. J.J. Redick looked to have re-aggravated his back in the opening minute, but looked largely unbothered the rest of the night.
Most notable was the rebounding differential, which has been a problem all year. The Clippers' starters are pretty average: the Paul-Redick-Stephenson-Griffin-Jordan lineup grabs 73.5% of defensive rebounds and 48.2% of total rebounds available on the court. The subs, however, are atrocious. The second unit of Rivers-Crawford-Johnson-Pierce-Smith (Pierce didn't play tonight), the Clippers' second-most-played lineup, grabs only 37.6% of total rebounds and just under two-thirds of defensive rebounds. That means that for every 3 shots a team misses against the Clippers' second unit, they get a second-chance opportunity. Tonight, the Blazers grabbed 17 offensive boards to LA's 32 defensive, and won the overall battle on the glass 55-42.
Looking at the box score, the game was pretty close. Both teams made 38 field goals, with Portland attempting two more. Portland attempted and made one more three. The Clippers easily had more assists, two more blocks, two less steals, and one less turnover.
The issue was largely the battle inside, where aside from the rebounding woes, the Clippers were worked by Plumlee (18 points on 6-9, 10 rebounds), Aminu (10 points, 13 rebounds), and Ed Davis (17 points, 15 rebounds on 7-8 shooting).
That's right, Ed Davis had the first 15-15 game of his career, and he did it on only 8 shots, largely because of the lack of size on the Clippers' second unit and a poor effort on the glass from any starter not named DeAndre Jordan. Blake Griffin only mustered 7 boards in his 34 minutes, and the guards were worse: Lance had 0 in 19 minutes played, Paul 2 in 29, and Redick only 1 in 26. The Clippers' main two subs, Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford, each had solid offensive outputs (Jamal shot poorly from the field but got hot from deep), but only totaled 2 rebounds in 49 minutes between them.
Letting up another big run to close a game and the rebounding issues are both concerns that the Clippers are going to have to address. Some stuff works itself out over the course of the season, like Paul and Redick's shooting. Other issues need to be corrected, and those may be two of the biggest issues the Clippers face.
The bad news is that 6-6 means that this is the latest the Clippers have been .500 in the Chris Paul era. The good news is that we're only 12 games into the season with a bunch of new players. The bad news is that the Clippers aren't playing very well. The good news is that this is the worst they'll play all season. The bad news is that the Clippers have lost 6 of their last 8. The good news is that they've had one of the hardest strengths of schedule in the league, and they're about to enter a stretch of 14 games where they'll only face 3 playoff teams (all Eastern), and 7 of their next 8 are home.
Now onto the real story:
This is a wallaby. This wallaby's name is Momo. Wallabies are a relatively small member of the kangaroo family, averaging a max height of 41" (although some can grow to 6"). They only live for about 9 years in the wild. Wallabies are herbivores indigenous to Australia, and can sprint at a top speed of 30 miles per hour!
I don't know how a wallaby got to Portland, but the rest of the NBA community needs to get in on this. With his speed, this prospect could have really helped out a tired Clippers team tonight, but unfortunately the poor beast has already been indoctrinated and brainwashed since a young age to be a Blazers fan. It's likely too late for Momo, but there are countless wallabies waiting in Australia for NBA scouts to discover them. I'd like for Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers to consider making the Clippers' D-League Affiliate the Sydney Wallabies, and then quite literally surround C.J. Wilcox and Branden Dawson with a team of the tallest, fastest wallabies around. They don't have to play any games, since the rest of the NBADL teams are in the United States, but I think C.J. and Branden would have a lot of fun.