Clippers suffer another close loss

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It was a showdown between the Portland Traiblazers and the L.A. Clippers at Staples Center Wednesday Night. Los Angeles was 61 games into its season before the game started with a record that will most likely get them into the playoffs — 40-21.

Austin Rivers of the Clippers and Robin Lopez of the Trailblazers before the game.
Austin Rivers of the Clippers and Robin Lopez of the Trailblazers before the game.

The Blazers had played three fewer games, but they too will make the playoffs.

Wednesday’s game was crucial for both teams, every game is crucial of course, but these are two teams battling for the same spot in the standings. A half game separated them before the game began so it was a battle for position and for home court atvantage once the playoffs started..

The Clippers suffered a tough loss at home to Memphis on February 23 and then another close one on the road in Houston, but since then L.A. had won three in a row, beating the Grizzlies, Bulls and Timberwolves on the road — without Blake Griffin in the lineup. When their all star forward comes back the Clippers will have a great team.

For Wednesday’s game they were also kissing Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford, two players that are often in double figures scoring, so this was going to be a tough game for the Clippers.

The Blazers had a three game win streak behind them going into the game, beating San Antonio and OKC at home and then the Kings in Sacramento.

Trailblazers head coach Terry Stotts
Trailblazers head coach Terry Stotts

The question was: who will leave Staples tonight with a four game win streak?

This was one good game. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said that with three of his best players out with injuries, he wanted to slow down the game and grind out a low-scoring defensive battle and figured if they did that the Clippers could beat the Portland Trailblazers. L.A. accomplished that. The problem was: the Trailblazers can play a slow game as well.

But for the most part it looked like the game was going to the Clippers advantage. Chris Paul, widely regarded as the best point guard in the NBA right now, scored 36 points and held the Blazers’ Damien Lillard to just five. Lillard is averaging 21 points per game so this was a big defensive effort by Paul and his teammates.

J.J. Redick scored 26 — he and Chris Paul combined for 62 of the Clippers’ points. DeAndre Jordan had 19 rebounds in the game, 15 of them on the defensive boards.

Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick
Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick

With Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes out, this was a big effort for the Clippers and everyone expected L.A. would get the win. But in the final seconds of regulation the game was tied after Nicholas Batum of the Blazers made a 25-foot jumper for three points.

With barely a second on the clock Chris Paul missed his final shot, but DeAndre Jordan got the rebound under the basket — but failed to reach up and dunk the ball. The fourth quarter ended at 87-87 and the game went into over time.

It was like the wind had been knocked out of the Clippers, they didn’t recover from missing that opportunity.The five-minute OT period saw the Blazers add 11 points to their score and the Clippers could only put in six. You can’t hinge a win or a loss on one play or even one player, usually, but after the game Jordan left Staples Center without talking to the press. He obviously felt really bad about how the game ended.

After the game Coach Doc Rivers talked about the missed scoring opportunities that preceded those final seconds of the fourth quarter and said the team just didn’t regroup for the overtime. J.J. Redick said, “I think we ran out of gas in the overtime.”

It was a tough loss for the Clippers, who had been on a three-game winning streak. It was a hard fought, physical game and Portland was able to finish on top.

Trailblazers forward Nicholas Batum
Trailblazers forward Nicholas Batum

Nicholas Batum had a very big night, either scoring or assisting on the Blazer’s last 19 points. He finished with 20 points and eight assists and seven rebounds.

Head coach Terry Stotts of the Blazers said, after the game, “The understatement is: that’s a hell of a win.”

The Trailblazers have now extended their winning streak to four and they will face the Dallas Mavericks at the Moda Center in Portland. The Clippers will go north to Oracle Arena in Oakland to face the best team in the West: the Golden State Warriors.

The final score from Wednesday’s game: 98-93 in overtime, to Portland.

 (All photos by Claudia Gestro)