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Clippers Defeat Blazers 114-106 in Season Opener

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers defeated the Trail Blazers 114-106 in a hard-fought playoff rematch thanks to a big fourth quarter run and strong performances from the team’s leaders.

Holding on to a 90-89 lead with 6:39 left in the fourth quarter, the Clippers were able to put together a 17-3 run to take a comfortable 15-point lead with less than three minutes to go. The Trail Blazers were able to edge the score closer as the game came to its close, but the lead held to give Los Angeles the victory.

The usual suspects led the way for the Clippers as Blake Griffin ended the game with 27 points and 13 rebounds while Chris Paul also scored 27.

Marreese Speights was effective off the bench, scoring 15 points in as many minutes. He and the other backups were able to establish the first meaningful lead of the game in the first half before holding on to a narrow lead in their second-half run together.

DeAndre Jordan and Mason Plumlee were at each other’s throats for much of the game, including multiple stops in action as referees separated the two. Jordan finished the game with six points and 12 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass. Plumlee finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks.

Damian Lillard ended with a double-double, scoring 29 points while pulling in 10 rebounds. Maurice Harkless scored 23 points, while C.J. McCollum put up 16 points.

Thoughts, Ideas, Blurbs, et Cetera

–Last season, the Clippers had a reputation for getting big leads thanks to the core guys (Paul, Griffin, Jordan, Redick) and then watching them disappear once the backups got onto the court. Tonight it was a very different story. Single-game plus/minus statistics shouldn’t be trusted regularly, but sometimes they tell a clear story. This was one of those cases, as no Clippers starter finished the game as a positive while nobody on the bench unit finished as a negative (the starting unit was a collective -37, while the bench was a collective +77).

–Austin Rivers has improved his efficiency every year in the league, and tonight was a good start if he is looking to continue that trend. He finished shooting 4-of-8 from the floor, taking all of his shots either at the rim or from behind the three-point line (he missed his three-point shots, but only one of the looks was bad). He avoided turnovers and low-percentage midrange shots off the dribble, playing within his limits on the offensive end and bringing a sensibility to his decisions without seeming to lose his confidence. He also played aggressive defense both on and off-ball. He first took the court next to Los Angeles’ core-four and it was by all appearances a good fit. Could the Clippers most maligned player have finally turned the corner?

–The Clippers likely have mixed feelings about how they defended Lillard. On one hand, he is a good shooter that hits tough shots. His three-point looks fell into this category, and there’s only so much a team can do to stop that. On the other hand, he had much too easy a time getting easy looks at the rim. If Jordan is going to try to contend for defensive player of the year, he’s going to have to be able to step up and contest in more of these situations, whether he is defending the pick and roll or lingering on the weak side. It’s not as if he never got in front of the rim, but the more the merrier.

–This is your regular reminder that Jordan’s terrible free throw shooting is often a problem that manifests itself late in close games.

–Raymond Felton always gets a hearty jeering when he takes the court in Portland. Why? Well, if you ask Kevin Harlan: “They’re booing Felton because when he came here they thought he was fat.”