GAMEDAY REPORT: CLIPPERS VS. TRAILBLAZERS - 12/26/13
Game #31 | December 26, 2013
Moda Center | Portland, OR
PORTLAND – Chris Paul sat in front of his locker a little longer than usual. He was quiet, arms crossed, a look on his face that warned it may be inadvisable to approach.
Paul later said he could not stop thinking about the final 9.3 seconds of regulation in the Clippers’ 116-112 overtime loss Thursday night to the Portland Trail Blazers.
As the time ticked away in his head, he thought about Nicolas Batum’s 3-pointer that tied the game at 101 with 5.3 seconds to go and about the shot he missed seconds later from 17 feet that popped off one side of the rim and then the other before falling awry.
“I got right where I wanted to,” Paul said of the final play of regulation. “I probably tricked myself too much. I don’t even know if they knew they had a foul to give. There were five seconds left that’s why I went quick because I thought they were going to try to use one of their fouls. I didn’t know I was going to be as open as I was. I’ve just got to make that shot.”
Paul finished with 34 points, 16 assists and six steals, but he did not score in overtime when the Trail Blazers, who are a league-best 24-5, earned a four-point victory behind seven of LaMarcus Aldridge’s team-high 32 points and eight consecutive free throws.
It was the second game in as many nights that Paul missed shots that would have either tied or won the game in the waning moments for the Clippers (20-11).
The loss, their second in a row after their five-game winning streak was snapped in a 105-103 loss on Christmas to Golden State, spoiled a pair of monster efforts from Paul and Blake Griffin, who had a season-high 35 points with 11 rebounds. Jamal Crawford added 21 points, Matt Barnes had a dozen off the bench, and DeAndre Jordan had 19 rebounds.
But it wasn’t enough to avoid heading home without a victory on their brief two-game road trip.
"It's tough, that's for sure,” Crawford said. “It'd be different if we lost both games by 15 or 20 points, but to lose two emotional games like that is tough. I think, honestly, those ones are tougher to digest than losing by 20. Sometimes you lay an egg and you come out and you just don't have it that night, but to have the opportunity to win both of them is tough."
The Clippers put themselves in position to win with a stellar fourth quarter. Griffin, Crawford and Paul scored 24 points including three consecutive jumpers by Paul that earned a 101-98 lead. They rallied from two separate double-digit deficits transforming a game that looked early like it might be a blowout victory for the well-rested and waiting Trail Blazers, into a classic.
Both teams exchanged baskets in the final minutes and every time it looked as though one team had seized the game the other answered. An 11-0 Clippers run, capped by a 3-pointer by Crawford, tied the game at 91 with 3:03 left. And the back-and-forth continued until the Clippers made two stops that led to jumpers from their six-time All-Star point guard.
But Batum’s shot changed the narrative from Paul taking over in “winning time” to a defensive breakdown that left Griffin, Paul and Head Coach Doc Rivers all shouldering some level of blame.
“We gave them three at the end, that can't happen,” Rivers said. “Number one, we should have fouled and that's on me. We had too much indecision, that's why I called the twenty, because I could see the guys weren't all on the same page defensively. I always foul. The one time I don't, they score. That's why I always foul, so that one is on me."
Said Paul, “That 3-pointer there at the end I should have switched out onto Batum.”
And finally Griffin: “That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job. I’ve got to get up into Batum a little bit more and make that switch a little bit harder.”
They entered the game the best 3-point defense in the league based on opponent’s shooting percentage, but were burned by Portland from long distance all night. The Blazers shot 36.1 percent (13-for-36). Mo Williams and Dorell Wright knocked down two in the early stages of the fourth quarter that could have been backbreakers, extending Portland’s lead to 84-75 after the Clippers had pulled within three less than three minutes earlier. And, of course, there was Batum’s shot.
Still, the Clippers climbed back time and again despite a 2:15 a.m. arrival in Portland early Thursday morning and a 4-for-18 start from the field and a season-low 14 points in the first quarter.
“I don’t think none of us thought about fatigue,” Darren Collison said. “It was all will. We’re trying to do something big here.”
Asked how the Clippers can take something positive from a gut-wrenching loss, Griffin added, “I think it’s a good experience for us. We’re going to have games like this in the Playoffs and playing in a hostile environment, great crowd. A couple of things didn’t go our way down the stretch, but ultimately we controlled our own destiny.”
Paul and Griffin are the only two Clippers since 1985-86 to have 30 points or more in the same game and record double-doubles. They’ve done so twice since joining forces, Thursday and Feb. 1, 2012… The Clippers fell to 8-9 on the road… Portland played for the first time since Dec. 21. The Clippers have played two additional games in that span, including an overtime victory over the Timberwolves on Dec. 22 and their 105-103 loss on Dec. 25… The Clippers had a 54-22 advantage in points in the paint… Griffin has at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in five straight games… All five Portland starters scored in double figures… The Blazers had 60 rebounds and the Clippers shot just 12 free throws (making six)… The Clippers committed a season-low five turnovers…
|Clippers guard Chris Paul on missing chances to win or tie the game in the final seconds of back-to-back losses:
“It doesn’t feel good, I can tell you that much. Two tough losses should have been wins, but luckily we get a chance to play again. Luckily, it wasn’t an elimination game or a Game 7.”
|Clippers forward Blake Griffin on his second technical foul from the Golden State game being rescinded by the league:
“At the end of the day it’s about the wins and losses and we have a loss in our column as a result of that. So, it doesn’t really change anything for me.”
|Clippers guard Jamal Crawford on whether the team can take any silver linings from the last two losses:
"If it is, it's tough to find right now. Obviously, I know there is. The glass is half full or half empty, however you look at it. But for us right now, it's a hard loss to digest."
|Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts on his team’s defense and the overall tenor of the game:
“On the whole, they are an explosive team and I thought Blake Griffin and Chris Paul played at a very high level. They made some tough shots. For the first 20 minutes of the game, our defense was very solid. Maybe it was because they were missing shots, but I thought the defense was very solid. Fourth quarter, it was going back and forth. I thought both teams were good defensively and both teams made good offensive plays.”
|Clippers guard Darren Collison on what the team’s comeback from two double-digit deficits show:
“It shows that we’re real resilient. You’re going to need to win games like that, especially in the Playoffs. I’ll take that into consideration, but when we’re playing down the stretch, we’ve got to make plays and come up with the game. But I’m very proud of our effort.”
|CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS FROM THE GAME »|
By: Eric Patten | Follow @EricPatten