It was 85-75 with 2:45 to go and DeAndre Jordan at the free throw line for two fouls after the Portland Trail Blazers intentionally fouled him and put him there. Win Probability gives you a 99.6 percent chance of winning from that point on. The Clippers then found a way to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory. For 99.6 percent of the game, almost, the Clippers looked good enough to win despite the injuries they dealt with. It was that last little bit that killed them. Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes, and Jamal Crawford didn't suit up for tonight. The Clippers still looked poised to win. Until they didn't.
|Los Angeles Clippers||24||24||20||19||6||93|
|Portland Trail Blazers||28||18||20||21||11||98|
Let's look at this game on the surface and just take a step back for a minute. The Los Angeles Clippers, without three very important players, went to overtime with a top four seed from the Western Conference. And they did it without even playing great. Portland didn't look so great themselves. They missed quite a few open (and great) looks in general. Damian Lillard was thoroughly outplayed and dissected by the master magician named Chris Paul. LaMarcus Aldridge was horribly inefficient. The Blazers shot just 8-for-32 from three. Over 53 minutes of basketball, the Clippers held the Blazers to just 39.1 percent shooting overall and kept their pick-and-roll action under wraps for the most part. The Clippers looked good enough to win. For 99.6 percent of the time.
Chris Paul was magnificent, finishing with a game-high 36 points and a game-high 12 assists on 14-for-29 shooting in exactly 42 minutes of action. J.J. Redick was nearly as dazzling, pouring in 26 points on 11-for-27 shooting and nailing four threes (on tweleve tries). They were a backcourt duo beyond reproach for 99.6 percent of this game. They were nearly enough to win. Nearly. Because, see, with 2:38 to go, Doc Rivers subbed out DeAndre Jordan in exchange for Spencer Hawes because Jordan just finished an 0-for-6 stretch at the line while Portland hacked away at him. The Clippers were up ten at the time. By the time Jordan checked back in just 92 seconds later, the lead had dwindled all the way down to a measly three. Redick hit a layup to push it back to five then Afflalo hit a tough bank shot to get back to three before Redick missed a jumper. On the rebound, Portland evaded a steal and Batum walked into an easy three to tie the game with 26.1 to go. And then Chris Paul got the ball. 99.6 percent of the time, it seems to work.
Paul threw a pass to Jordan that didn't quite work out but the Clippers retained possession only to have Paul see his floater/runner rim out at the buzzer. Or, at least, what DeAndre Jordan thought was the buzzer because it never sounded due to a clock malfunction that stuck the clock at 0.7 to go. Game went into overtime and the Clippers tied it up at 93-93 after two sensational shots by Paul. Aldridge then got an alley-oop, Batum chasedown blocked Redick's layup, and then Batum nailed a dagger three that iced the game to give us the final score. 99.6 percent. It wasn't 100 percent. And until it's 100 percent, you can never be so sure of what's going to happen.
Credit where credit is due, though. Portland never gave up. And, in a way, the Hack-a-Jordan strategy worked for them. It just didn't work on the scoreboard while he was in the game. They never drew closer during Jordan's time on the floor despite him missing all six of his free throws. Where they drew closer, however, is when Doc Rivers foolishly took Jordan out of the game for Spencer Hawes simply because he believed Jordan's free throws were hurting the team. They weren't. The Clippers allowed just one point with Jordan on the floor during the strategy, and that was after Glen Davis fouled Batum. Portland went 0-for-4 from the field with a turnover during that period. They went 2-for-3 in the 92 seconds Jordan was off the floor. Small sample sizes and all that. Yet here we are. It's a big one right now. Because 99.6 percent of the time, Doc leaves Jordan in. This was the 0.4 percent, apparently.
I sincerely doubt we ever see Lillard and Aldridge play this poorly against the Clippers ever again. They combined to go 13-for-43 from the field. Lillard himself was 1-for-13 and his only make was an alley-oop layup in overtime. That feed came from Batum. Speaking of Batum, he started the game 4-for-4 and didn't do anything else until late in the game when he nailed the walkup three to tie it up. He then scored or assisted on all four Blazers baskets in overtime and even had the chasedown block of Redick to keep Portland in front. If Portland hands out a game ball, they should give it to him. The guy was silent for roughly 36 minutes and then displayed his cojones for the world to see.
The referees were awful tonight. Too many reviews, too many stoppages, and one horrible clear path foul that went Portland's way when Hawes was trying to breakup a long distance pass to Robin Lopez. If the referees are going to screw the Clippers on a nightly basis now, the least they could do is hand out a memo beforehand so the team knows what to expect and could prepare accordingly by not even breathing whilst on the court. Yet again a Clippers opponent shot nearly 30 free throws -- Portland finished with 29 -- and yet again the Clippers were hamstrung by foul trouble. Paul finished the game with five but his fourth foul late in the third quarter had a significant effect on the game. When he left, the Clippers were up by 11. When he came back, it was down to just two.
Portland finished nearly every quarter on a run. They ended the first quarter on a 6-0 run in just 60 seconds. They ended the third quarter on an 11-2 run and they ended the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run. Hell, they even ended overtime on a 5-0 run. That's 32 points in just 6:06 of time. The Clippers did not finish quarters well whatsoever. The Blazers scored 32.7 percent of their points in only 11.5 percent of actual game time just by having great ends to the quarter. It's demoralizing.
Doc Rivers made some boneheaded decisions in this game. I can't fault him excessively for playing Hedo Turkoglu 37:12 tonight simply because there was no one else. I can fault Doc for going to Dahntay Jones for some reason late in overtime, not using Glen Davis at all in overtime, taking DeAndre Jordan out of the game entirely in the fourth quarter, and then forgetting to use one of his three remaining timeouts when the Clippers were up by six with under two minutes to go and had the ball. Doc should have absolutely taken his timeout right there. He got Jordan back into the game too late. I can also fault Doc for not using Jordan Hamilton at all after the 3:46 mark in the third quarter. It made no sense. A lot of factors went into this loss but Doc fouled it up just as much as anyone else. And he doesn't normally do that.
There's not even enough room to type out all of the stuff that happened in this game, it was just that ridiculous and out of control. From Glen Davis drawing charges to him giving Aldridge fits defensively to him doing sit-ups. From all the in-and-out shots by both teams to the replay reviews to the fact Lillard had 18 rebounds and trailed only Jordan (19) in that department tonight. From Lillard and Aldridge building the new football stadium in Los Angeles with all their bricks to Paul's mesmerizing display of court generalship. From Doc Rivers getting a technical foul to Doc making perplexing decisions to J.J. Redick leaping over the scorer's table to save a ball and then running back around the stands to get back onto the floor. This game had everything. It was a playoff game. It was the sixth straight game between these two teams that got decided by six points or less. And it was incredible theater. Take it for what it's worth.
On the bright side, the Clippers were without three of their better players and lost a game they seemingly had in the bag. It sucks but you move on. You can't really cry about sour grapes on this one. Take the loss in stride and keep it going. They're still the 5-seed due to owning the tiebreaker over the Dallas Mavericks. They're still two back of the 4-seed Houston Rockets in the loss column. However, they are now three back in the loss column of Portland and must go on the road to win the season series outright to have a chance to host that potential first round matchup at home if the two sides share the same record. Portland will have the divisional tiebreaker for seeding but season series record could come into play if it's a 4-5 matchup.
The other good news is that Blake Griffin might be back for Sunday's game. Personally, I think he should take a little bit more time off but the team will get two practices in between now and Sunday afternoon when the team has to travel to play the Golden State Warriors, so he could be ready. There's no word on when Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford will be back but Barnes sounds like he could be back soon. Jamal's a different story since calf issues are no joke for him. The Clippers are still on a tough-as-nails stretch. Seven of their next nine games are against playoff contenders followed by a three-game Eastern Conference road trip to New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. If the team can come out of that road trip with at least a 48-26 record, it'll be good. The team is still battling injuries. They're 7-4 without Blake Griffin. All four losses are to current Western Conference playoff teams and three of the four losses are by five points or less. This team is fighting. Harder than ever before. 99.6 percent of the time that's enough. Just not tonight. S**t happens. Onto the next one.