George had 33 points and buried the tying and winning free throws to give LA the win after Portland led most of the game, although both teams battled to the wire in this one.
Kawhi Leonard has been put on the shelf for a week to rest up, so he missed the game. As a result, the Clippers started George, Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann and Marcus Morris Sr. on the night. Damian Lillard missed the game for Portland as well.
The opening quarter was even, with the Blazers holding a narrow lead most of the way but the teams neck-and-neck. After 12 minutes, Portland led 31-30, but George was off to a good start with 11 points in the first frame.
The 2nd quarter got pretty stop-start, with the Clippers drawing several fouls to try and set themselves up for the bonus. In spite of that, the shorthanded Blazers were game for this one, and maintained a small lead over LA, as the quarter wore on they extended that lead to 10 points.
But LA rallied late in the last couple minutes of the quarter, and had a chance to tie or take the lead. But George turned the ball over, and the Clippers settled for a 60-56 deficit heading into the locker room at halftime. Morris paced LA’s scorers with 14 at the break.
The highlight of the 1st half for the Clippers was likely DeMarcus Cousins’ photo bomb reaction to an unsuccessful challenge of a foul call late in the 2nd quarter.
The Clippers started the 3rd quarter well and briefly retook the lead out of the gate, with the teams trading leads from there.
The Clippers had the narrow edge as they seemed to get their best beat of the night on Portland, but it remained close, George burying a 3-pointer in LA’s final possession to give them an 86-82 lead going into the final quarter.
But Portland didn’t say die and the teams continued to battle back and forth in the 4th quarter. It was a vintage night for NBA stars of yesteryear, with Cousins posting a high in his stint with the Clippers to date with 11 points, and Carmelo Anthony scoring 18 for the Blazers.
The game remained tight down the stretch, with the Blazers grabbing a six-point lead before LA patiently chipped away at it.
After CJ McCollum buried a 3-pointer at one end, George orchestrated back-to-back baskets to make it a one-point game with 33 seconds to play.
Norman Powell missed the 3-point attempt for Portland on the following possession, and with the game on the line George drew a foul along the baseline. George buried both free throws and LA took a 113-112 lead with just over four seconds to go.
McCollum had a decent, if contested, look to win the game, but his shot at the elbow bounced off the back of the rim and LA came from behind to take the win at the last minute, literally.
It was another impressive performance for the Clippers because this looked like a game they were going to lose. Their shooting wasn’t as crisp as you’d like to see, and the Blazers really seemed like they had the edge in intensity overall, but as we know in the NBA, the stars sometimes tip the balance, and George had that gravitational pull when it mattered in this game.
The Clippers will return to LA and then have a quick turnaround, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday at Staples Center. The Grizz sit 8th in the Western Conference at present and look like they’re trending to a play-in tournament berth come season’s end. Given they could be a potential playoff opponent, too, it’s another good chance to scout them up close and personally.