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Clippers 126, Blazers 122: Paul Plunders Portland

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A night after having their heart somewhat ripped out by division rival Golden State, the Clippers went up to Portland and played like crap for the first 24 minutes before figuring out what basketball was in the second half.

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

My initial recap is in the trash. Well the recycle bin on the computer since no one writes on paper anymore. At least I don’t think so. Do they? Doesn’t matter. I can thank Chris Kaman for making me rewrite this and have to delve back into this game but I’m forever thankful to him for doing so. Ya see, the Clippers and Blazers were playing a nice game of hoopy ball until Kaman pushed Chris Paul over and earned a flagrant foul for doing so. And, in doing so, it fueled the fire of fires within the Point God to lay siege to the city of Portland like he was Blackbeard and they had the gold he so sought. For tonight was a night that Chris Paul, the often overlooked and hated point guard in the league, taught dear Kaman a valuable lesson. He who wakes the Point God from his slumber shall pay the ultimate price for trespassing on said snooze. The evisceration of Kaman and the Blazers was a treat to watch, even though heart-wrenching moments were sewn into the seams of the game.

1 2 3 4 Total
Los Angeles Clippers 26 29 30 41 126
Portland Trail Blazers 33 35 24 30 122
Wednesday April 1, 2015 – Moda Center – Portland, Oregon

Tired, drained, exasperated, fatigued, and overworked. The Clippers were all of those things in the first quarter, and even first half, of this game. The Blazers pounded on the Clippers during the opening 24 minutes and made life a living hell for Los Angeles. If LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t hitting every shot imaginable – which he did in the first quarter – then it was Nicolas Batum changing places with him and doing the same throughout the first half. If Arron Afflalo wasn’t hitting a key jumper here and there, it was Damian Lillard doing so. Portland, in the first half, made the Clippers defense look like Brazil’s when they played Germany in the 2014 World Cup Semifinal. To quote the glorious Steve McManaman from that game, it was “amateur hour” defense being played. And then, like the green light on the docks from across Jay Gatsby’s house, it flickered on for the Clippers.

Despite being down by 13 going into the second half, the Clippers did not give up even though it looked like their best just wouldn’t be enough due to their tired state. Yet it happened. They started hitting shots and Portland started missing the ones they were hitting in the first half. And then it occurred. With 25.7 seconds to go in the third quarter, Chris Kaman shoved Chris Paul square in the back and pushed him over. It resulted in a flagrant foul and the Clippers got free throws. Paul stepped to the line and nailed both. After that, he went to the line again in the final seconds of the third to cut it down to just seven going to the final frame. The breaks started to go the Clippers way and the same would hold true in the fourth.

The bench sucks. It’s terrible at times and costs the team chances at pulling closer in games they need to win. Except in the fourth quarter. It seemed like every single shot the bench hit early on in the fourth quarter was a huge shot. Glen Davis hit a shot to cut it to five, Hedo Turkoglu hit a huge three to cut it to four, and then Davis made another shot to cut it back down to four after Portland pushed it up to six. Then the starters fully came back into the game. With 7:05 to go in the fourth, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin came back in. After that, the Clippers went on a 17-5 run that spanned 5:02 of game time. To put it simply, the team took over when they needed to. And boy oh boy did Paul lead the way.

With 50 seconds to go, the Clippers were up by nine and had a 99.9 percent chance of winning. They won. But let’s not kid ourselves, it wasn’t easy. Damian Lillard got fouled and made a free throw. He missed the second one but LaMarcus Aldridge got the rebound and put it in while drawing a foul. He hit the free throw. In a matter of moments, the lead went from nine to five. On the next Clippers possession, DeAndre Jordan got a loose ball foul and Aldridge hit two more free throws to cut it to three. Then the leader, Chris Paul, went to the line and knocked down two foul shots to push it back up to five before C.J. McCollum inexplicably got open for a three to cut it back down to two. And, yet, Chris Paul went back to the line and knocked down two more free throws to put the game out of reach. When the team needed him the most, he synched up his sneakers and led the team to the finish line.

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There is a lot to take away from this game. Seriously. A lot happened. From Kaman pushing Paul to Aldridge and Batum going off early to Paul, Redick, and Griffin carrying the offensive load in the second half. This game had a playoff type feel to it. The Clippers were down by as much as 19 points early on in this game. It looked hopeless. Honestly. It did. The team seemed to be going through the motions and just willing to play the game through. Until, that is, Kaman shoved Paul. (Let’s not forget Glen Davis flopping like a fish out of water when going after LaMarcus Aldridge, either.) There was only one lead change in this game. Once the Clippers took the lead, they never gave it up. It was all thanks to Chris Paul. He was the story of the game.

People can love him or hate him, but they can’t deny the sheer greatness – or can they?! – that Chris Paul oozes out of his pores. When he wakes up in the morning, he pisses excellence. The man finished with a game-high 41 points, game-high 17 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals to go with just one measly turnover. The turnover happened on the first play of the game. So, essentially, he played mistake free basketball for the final 47:30 of this game. He was 13-for-21 from the field, which included 5-for-9 from three, and also went 10-for-10 from the line. Oh, and the list of players to have at least 40 points and 17 assists with just one or fewer turnovers begins and ends with Chris Paul’s game tonight. As our awesome Jul Jessup alluded to on Twitter during the game, Paul begging for Kaman to stay in the game after committing the flagrant foul was basically the equivalent of premeditated murder. Somewhere in Oregon, a DA is looking to prosecute Paul shortly.

There were other guys in this game, as well, in case you were wondering. Blake Griffin had 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists on 10-for-18 shooting. But this wasn’t a Griffin game where he got those points inside. Quite the opposite. How many points did Blake Griffin score from inside 16 feet, you ask? Zero. He was 0-for-5. 22 of his 24 points came from 16 feet or longer. The other two were from the line. This included him going 2-for-2 from three and 8-for-11 from 16-to-24 feet. Basically, his shooting really opened up the floor for Paul on the pick-and-roll to the point where Griffin was knocking that shot down enough to give Paul space in the mid-range.

J.J. Redick finished with 25 points on 9-for-20 shooting. He, like Paul, went 5-for-9 from three. He, like Griffin, went 2-for-2 from the line. Because of that, Redick is now a staggering 75-for-76 from the free throw line since January 1st. Sources tell me that’s pretty good. Matt Barnes didn’t have a good night, though. He went just 3-for-6 but missed all three of his attempts from deep while committing five fouls. In fact, Doc Rivers actually went to Hedo Turkoglu more in the fourth quarter than he went to Matt Barnes. And .. it .. worked. I know, right?! I’m stunned, as well. Hedon’t pass. Hedo shoot, though.

Speaking of bench guys, the bench looked okay (by their standards) tonight. Spencer Hawes only got 5:04 and missed both shots he took. Glen Davis played 11:36 and went 3-for-6 to finish with six points and a wonderful flop that’ll surely get him fined, as mentioned earlier. Speaking of that, he’d be the first Clipper to get fined for flopping. No one ever mentions that. Anyways, Austin Rivers played 22:00 and had 3 points but didn’t get overwhelmed by Lillard when he was on him. Dahntay Jones got 14 seconds of action and I can’t recall what happened. He tipped a pass. I think. Whatever. Doesn’t matter.

Let’s talk DeAndre Jordan for a second, though. He looked downright dead in the first half. It looked like a repeat of last night for him. Then he turned it on, as well. Jordan nearly had a double-double in the second half alone – nine points and ten rebounds – to help him finish the entire game with 13 points and game-high 13 rebounds to go along with 3 assists and a block. He went 4-for-5 from the field but did go an okay 5-for-10 from the line. Portland went to the Hack-A-Jordan and it looked like it’d work until the Clippers got two consecutive offensive rebounds only to have Chris Paul call a timeout to get Jordan off the floor and allow the Clippers to get a possession without him being fouled. Redick made a layup to push the lead to ten during that possession. So even when the strategy worked, it didn’t.

On the Portland side, LaMarcus Aldridge had a team-high 29 points on 10-for-22 shooting but went just 1-for-8 in the second half. The Clippers did a solid job on him in the final half of basketball, that’s for sure. Damian Lillard, Paul’s personal whipping boy now, had 18 points and a team-high 10 assists on 7-for-14 shooting which included a three he hit from somewhere near Medford. Nicolas Batum dropped in 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting overall and 5-for-7 from three. Ever since Batum took over the final however many minutes of the last meeting, he’s killed the Clippers. They can’t contain him. C.J. McCollum led the bench with 13 points, Robin Lopez had a team-high 8 rebounds, and Chris Kaman poked a sleeping bear enough that the sleeping bear turned around and ripped his beard off and used it as toilet paper.

SO .. WHAT NOW?
There’re only six games left in the season. It’s flown by but it also seems like it’s taken forever, if that makes any sense whatsoever. The team has two days off before having to play the Nuggets in Denver on Saturday night. That’s also the night of the Final Four. So if you don’t watch the Clippers game, I’ll understand. After that, it’s two games with the Lakers with the first being on the second night of a back-to-back. Then it’s Memphis and Denver at home before finishing up in Phoenix on the second to last day of the season. By the way, how stupid is that? Clippers and Suns finish up the season before everyone else. It’s moronic.

The Clippers are fifth in the standings. Well, fourth if you don’t count the idiotic way the NBA does seeding for division winners. They might need to address that in the future. But that’s neither here nor there. The team is tied in the loss column with the Blazers and Spurs but own the tiebreaker with both. Basically, if the team finishes with the same amount of losses as either one, they’ll finish above them in the standings or finish above them for homecourt. Whichever way you want to look at it. There is still a very small possibility the Clippers can get the two seed or three seed, but that’s for another time. Frankly, just be damn happy the team stole this one in Portland on the second night of a back-to-back thanks to the brilliance of Chris Paul and his ability to draw-and-quarter a bearded man for the world to see. He seems solid.

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