Chris Paul may have left for Houston, but the Los Angeles Clippers still have their franchise player in Blake Griffin. The Clippers remained undefeated (4-0) after Griffin hit a three-pointer to beat the final buzzer and give the Clippers a hard fought road victory in Portland, 104 to 103. Griffin led the Clippers with another impressive line of 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. His only blemish on the night was his poor 3/8 from the free throw line. The Portland Trail Blazers (3-2) were led by their guard duo of Damien Lillard (25 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists) and C.J. McCollum (23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists).
First Quarter – Clippers 30 – Trail Blazers 24
This initial quarter witnessed great Clippers offense and mediocre defense. Offensively the Clippers were led by Austin Rivers (9 points off 3/5 shooting) and Danilo Gallinari (8 points off 2/4 shooting, and 4/4 free throws). Defensively the Clippers were anchored by DeAndre Jordan’s 9 first-quarter rebounds. The problem however was Portland’s 8 offensive rebounds (compared to their only 5 defensive rebounds). The consequence was the Trail Blazers getting a ton more shots than the Clippers. Thus, even though Portland shot poorly, they stayed relatively close in the quarter.
Second Quarter – Clippers 62 – Trail Blazers 53
The Clippers continued to push their successful offense into the second quarter. The constant theme was the aggressive nature of the entire team that led to Portland fouls and Clippers free throws. Portland had 17 fouls at the half while the Clippers had only 8. The Clippers had attempted 27 free throws while Portland only attempted 11. The good guys were led by Gallinari who had 14 points on just 3/5 shooting because of his 8/8 free throw shooting. Perhaps more impressive was Sindarius Thornwell who chipped in 6 points and 2 rebounds in merely 4:01 of play (due largely to his 4/4 free throw shooting). In a short sequence of time, Thornwell provided an alley-oop assist, drew a foul on a pump fake, hit a deep 2-point shot from the corner on a fast break, and drew a foul while grabbing a defensive rebound that led to a Portland foul and two more free throws. As a team, the Clippers limited Portland to only 2 offensive rebounds in the quarter.
Third Quarter – Clippers 80 – Trail Blazers 79
Contrary to their previous games, the Clippers struggled in the third quarter on both ends of the court. Offensively the Clippers’ well ran dry. Gallinari, Blake Griffin, and Austin Rivers combined to go 1/11 from the field. As a team the Clippers were 18/35 from the field in the first half, but 8/23 in the third quarter. Los Angeles’ saving grace was Patrick Beverley. After struggling in the first half with foul trouble and terrible offense (2/5 shooting, but 0 assists and 3 turnovers), Beverley was 4/6 from the field. He was heavily active on the offensive boards and also drew a charge foul. The Trail Blazers in contrast did not follow the Clippers in becoming ice cold. After a horrid first half (18/51 from the field), Portland held steady with 9/21 shooting from the field that included 4/6 on 3-point shots. This was despite the fact that Jusuf Nurkic picked up his 4th foul with 11:36 left in the quarter and his 5th foul with 8:54 left. In sum, this quarter witnessed Portland pull even at 72-72 with about 4:30 left in the quarter. The game became a see-saw at that point as the teams traded buckets, turnovers, and pretty fast paced tempo.
Fourth Quarter – Clippers 104 – Trail Blazers 103
Through the fourth quarter the two teams traded buckets and plays. Patrick Beverley continued his second half revival with multiple big plays. With under two minutes to go Beverley intercepted a cross-court pass, and saved it from going out of bounds, for a crucial steal in a one-possession game. However, the Clippers turned the ball right soon afterwards. With the Clippers down 101-102 and 20.2 seconds left, Gallinari missed a three-pointer badly as it barely grazed the front of the rim. Yet Patrick Beverley once again showed his offensive rebounding prowess by hauling in his 5th offensive rebound of the game (7th rebound overall) and getting the Clippers another possession. That possession turned out to be a roller coaster ride. After in-bounding the ball (the referees had stopped play to review and confirm that Gallinari’s shot had grazed the rim), the Clippers were unable to find an open shooter. Ultimately Austin Rivers drove into the lane and attempted a contested layup that missed. Initially a defensive blocking foul was called. Austin lay crumpled on the floor from dislocating his right-pinkie finger on his shooting hand. The Clippers were hurting but appeared to have a chance to take free throws for the lead. However official review of the play overturned the call on-the-court as replay showed Rivers charging into a planted Damien Lillard. The offensive foul gave the ball to the Trail Blazers with approximately 5 seconds left in the game. After a quick foul by DeAndre Jordan, C.J. McCollum missed his first and hit his second free throw attempts. After a timeout, the Clippers were saved when Blake Griffin nailed a 25-foot three-pointer from the left wing to give the Clippers a one-point victory, 104-103.
- Austin Rivers dislocated his right-pinkie (shooting hand) and will be getting an x-ray. It’s unclear what this means for Austin’s future availability, whether missing games completely or playing at sub-optimal performance. It should however encourage (if not force) Doc Rivers to utilize his bench more. While 5 bench players saw the court, only 2 (Lou Williams and Wesley Johnson) played more than 9 minutes in the game. Doc needs to expand his rotation or risk exhausting his starters. Speaking of bench players...
- Sindarius Thornwell made a solid case for more playing time. While all his points and rebounds came in his 4:01 of play in the first half, he got another 4:30 of playing time in the second half and he showed good hustle overall. But speaking of all the production coming in the first half....
- Danilo Gallinari was good...for one half. If you only looked at his first half, Gallinari looked like he was having a breakout game. He was contributing on offense by making shots and constantly going to the free throw line. Then his second half brought reality crashing back down to Earth. He ended the night 4/11 from the field and 0/5 on three-point attempts. He had zero free throw attempts in the second half after 8 in the first. Yikes.
It doesn’t matter how many points it’s by: a road win is a good win. The Clippers played a playoff caliber team on the road and won. Last year the Clippers were only 22-19 on the road. They’re now 2-0 on this young season. This is still a team trying to find its groove, but the results thus far have been likely above the expectations of most Clippers fans.
The Clippers next play this Saturday (October 28) at home against the Detroit Pistons.