After a rough start to the season, the Clippers seemed to finally be ready to compete at a high level by winning four games in a row. Tuesday night, they met a familiar foe in the Portland Trail Blazers in their third matchup of the season. Having split their last two games with a victory each, the Clippers sought to channel the energy brought in their 30-point home win against the Blazers, extending their win streak to five. They did just that in a 117-109 victory.
Although it’s been somewhat of a trend recently for the Clippers to fall behind in the first quarter and crawl back in the second quarter or later in the game, this time they outplayed their rivals in the first 12 minutes. They hit nearly 60 percent of their 3-point shots in the first quarter, contributing to their seven point lead. By the end of the first half, though, the Trail Blazers fought back and matched the offensive firepower of Paul George and Reggie Jackson, making it just a one-point difference at the end of the second quarter.
Jackson continued to show confidence and effectiveness on the offensive end at the beginning of the second half, which is a promising sign for the starting combo guard. He hasn’t played up to expectations until fairly recently, so tonight’s performance suggests this may become consistent through the season. Still, the supporting cast on the Blazers made up for Damian Lillard’s poor shooting night, but Nicolas Batum answered with 11 points of his own in the third quarter alone.
Lillard came back to lead a late-game surge, but critical mistakes by the Blazers, good defense by the Clippers, and a dagger and-one by George kept the threat at bay. This five-game winning streak was due not just to the Clippers’ offensive improvements, but also their solid defense that has been consistent throughout the young season. Their next game against the Miami Heat, however, will be another steep challenge that will require them to deliver on both ends for a win.