LA Clippers: Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Marcin Gortat, Tobias Harris,
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jake Layman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic
The Los Angeles Clippers came back from a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 104-100 on the road Sunday evening, proving once again that they are no fluke.
With the win the Clippers improve to 13-6 on the season and snap a 4-game losing streak to the Trail Blazers. Excitingly, they are also now in first place in the Western Conference with a win percentage of .684. The standings change daily, but let’s enjoy being on top while we can.
With the loss, Portland falls to 12-8 and 1.5 games behind first place in the West. The Blazers have lost three games in a row and five of their last seven.
The first half of this battle was a disaster for the Clippers. They came out flat and uninspired, and lacked intensity on both ends of the floor. Although there was some competitive back and forth early on in the first quarter, the Trail Blazers were able to establish a 4-point lead by the end of frame that they quickly extended to a 13-point lead by the half. The Blazers went on a 22-7 run at one point in the second quarter, marked by great ball movement and unmatched aggressiveness getting to the basket.
The Clippers’ defense was basically non-existent, allowing the Trail Blazers to score in a variety of ways. The Clippers struggled to defend Portland’s high pick-and-roll and allowed them to penetrate the middle uncontested for easy lay-ins at the rim. The Trail Blazers shot a hot 56.5% in the first quarter, and 55 percent for the half. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were excellent as expected, leading the way and combining for 27 points after two frames.
Offensively, the Clippers were not executing their game plan. The ball was not moving. Players were settling for outside shots after just one or two passes, and those shots were simply not hitting. In the half the Clippers shot a dismal 34 percent from the field and even more dismal 23 percent from 3-point land.
The only player with notable success on offense in the first half was Tobias Harris. Harris was the sole Clipper in double figures after two frames, scoring 16 points. Harris also snatched eight of the Clippers 21 rebounds in the half.
Danilo Gallinari was also somewhat successful on the floor; he and Harris were a combined 9 for 17 from the field and 2 for 4 from beyond the arc combining for 23 points. The rest of the Clippers were actually terrible, going 6 for 27 from the field and 1-of-9 from three.
Rebounding was a serious issue for the Clippers, as it was when these two franchises met earlier in the month. The Clippers were out-rebounded 31 to 21 by the Trail Blazers in the first 24 minutes of play. The Clippers had particular problems stopping Portland from grabbing offensive rebounds. The Blazers seemingly had opportunity after opportunity to score. They outscored the Clippers in the paint 34-16 in the first half.
In the second half the Clippers made a remarkable comeback by simply playing harder. No major adjustments, just simple tweaks. Better communication between players when defending the pick-and-roll, hustling after 50/50 balls, closing out on and contesting shots, and increasing physicality.
Early in the third frame the Clippers went on a 11-0 run, sparked by a surge in defensive intensity. Perimeter defense was very good, forcing Lillard and McCollum to take difficult and fade away shots. Defensive traps and switches were, for the most part, smooth and effective.
By halfway through the third quarter the Clippers had erased the Trail Blazers’ 13-point lead. Tobias Harris led the way offensively, reaching a season-high 31 points in the frame. Tobias scored in a variety of ways, including a number of “and-one” drives to the basket.
Montrezl Harrell’s energy was also noticeably higher in the third quarter. Although this game was not his best outing, he had some big plays on both ends of the floor.
By the end of the third the Clippers were up by nine, 83-74. A remarkable 24-point turnaround.
In the fourth quarter the Blazers lodged a number of comeback attempts, even tying the game at 100 with just over two minutes left in regulation. Lillard caused a 7-point turn around on his own to tie the game, completing a 4-point play and following it by downing a second three pointer.
Harrell was fouled the next time down the floor but missed both free throws. Montrezl struggled from the line throughout the game, finishing 4 for 12. The Blazers had an opportunity to take the lead but fell short when Lillard shot an airball. The Clippers got the ball back and Gallinari hit a clutch baseline jumper. The Clippers were up by two with less than a minute in regulation.
After unsuccessful scoring attempts by both franchises in the closing minute, Beverley snatched up a loose ball and was fouled. Cool as a cucumber Beverley sunk both free throws, cementing the Clippers’ road win.
Final Game Stats:
Tobias Harris was outstanding. He scored 34 points, a career high, on 14 for 22 shooting. He also added 11 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Danilo Gallinari was solid, finishing with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Montrezl Harrell was active, particularly in the second half, and ended the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. The rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also hit double figures, contributing 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists.
Damian Lillard was best for Portland. In his 41 minutes of play he scored 30 points on 12 for 27 shooting, including 3 of 13 made from beyond the arc. Lillard also had six rebounds and four assists. CJ McCollum (18 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist) and Evan Turner (17 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists), also had very good games. Jusuf Nurkic left the game at half-time with a right shoulder contusion so was a non-factor.
- Perimeter Defense: Although on paper Avery Bradley, Patrick Beverley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander may not look like they had stellar games, they actually did a very good job guarding the perimeter. Portland was held to 21.1 percent shooting from 3-point land, and 43.3 percent shooting from the field after shooting 55 percent in the first half.
- Rebounding: Rebounding killed the Clippers the last time they played the Trail Blazers and looked as if it was going to be a deciding factor in this game. However, despite their poor showing in the first-half, the Clippers finished with game with a solid 48 individual rebounds, and an additional 11 team rebounds. The Trail Blazers ended the game with 58 individual and three team rebounds. Rebounding will continue to be an issue for Los Angeles as the season progresses; the lack of a agile and athletic big man is something the Clippers desperately need to address.
- Turnovers: The Clippers picked the perfect game to have a season low four turnovers! Quite an accomplishment on the road. By comparison, the Trail Blazers turned the ball over 12 times in the contest.
- Marcin Gortat – Love Him or Hate Him? Ah, to love or hate the Polish Hammer. He’s not particularly athletic and does not rebound or score as well as he should for a center. However, his screens are legendary, and he performs decently in pick-and-roll situations. Today, he contributed noticeably well in his almost 16 minutes of play. He did an exceptional job communicating on defense and closing out shooters in the third quarter, helping significantly with the Clippers’ comeback.
- New Intensity from Tobias: After scoring a season low 12 points against the Memphis Grizzlies last Friday, Harris was possessed. He came out in attack mode and stayed there all game. In his team high 36+ minutes of play he was the leader the Clippers needed, exhibiting skill and aggression and coaching others on the floor.
- Harrell is Human: Montrezl Harrell played over 31 minutes in this match-up and looked a bit winded at times. With Nurkic out due to injury, perhaps Boban Marjanovic could have given him a few minutes respite? Harrell always gives 110%, and that must be exhausting. Doc Rivers may want to manage Montrezl’s minutes more conservatively in upcoming games to avoid injury and fatigue. We need a healthy Harrell come playoffs!
- Sweet Lou is Human Too: Lou Williams was a non-factor in this game, scoring only four points, all in the final quarter. Williams played a mere 17 minutes and did not play at all in the third frame. Although this was surprising, Doc was sticking with what was working at the time. Although Williams’ magical play was missed against Portland, the fact that the Clippers pulled off the comeback and win without him tells you a lot about how deep and talented this team actually is.
- Grit and Grind, Grit and Grind: One thing that has become abundantly clear so far this season is that the Clippers do not give up on games. These players listen to their coaches and make their adjustments, accept their roles and fully support each other. This is a true “team” that puts unit success over individual accomplishments. This is how basketball is supposed to be played. This roster deserves all the success they are reaping.
The Clippers have a couple of days off, then host the Phoenix Suns at Staples on November 28, 2018 in the first game of a back-to-back. Tip-off is 7:30 pm.
The next day the Clippers fly up to Sacramento to take on the Kings. Tip-off of that contest is also 7:30 pm.