|CLIPPERS / BLAZERS RECAP |
- RYAN MENEZES
LOS ANGELES—Once again, Chris Paul threw out a lifeline. The Clippers stayed afloat and eventually escaped Staples Center with a 98-97 win over the Trail Blazers.
Paul’s game-winning layup with five seconds to play was the latest in a season full of heroics for the Clippers point guard, who has repeatedly saved the team from various depths.
“I’m used to it,” Paul said of being the team’s closer. “It’s started every day since I’ve been in the NBA. I’ve been in this situation a number of times.”
The win was the sixth in a row at home for the Clippers (30-21) and matched a season-high four-game streak overall.
Difference Maker: Paul, who didn’t need much in the way of a play to perform his final act. He took the ball with 13.9 seconds left and Portland’s top stopper, Nicolas Batum, matched up against him. All Paul needed was a screen from DeAndre Jordan to get J.J. Hickson to switch his defensive assignment. Paul sized up Hickson, then blew by him and darted for a right-handed layup that was the game-winner.
The Blazers (24-28) would get the ball back with five seconds left, only to have Wesley Matthews’ final shot denied.
Turning Point: The Clippers and Blazers had traded baskets on seven straight possessions when JJ Hickson stepped to the free-throw line to try to extend the Blazers lead to four with just under a minute remaining. But Hickson, having a spectacular night up to that point, clanked both free throws to keep the Clippers within two. It gave the Clippers some relief in the middle of Portland’s hottest stretch of the night. Randy Foye would drain a 3-pointer on the very next possession to give the Clippers their first lead in over five minutes. Jamal Crawford added a tough, contested shot over Foye before Paul hit his game-winning shot.
Stat Line of the Night: Paul headlined a trio of Clippers who hit 20 points right on the nose, making 8 of his 13 shot attempts. He added 14 assists (with just one turnover) and had 4 steals.
More Stats: Randy Foye and Blake Griffin each had 20 points. Griffin had 13 rebounds – 8 in the first quarter alone.
DeAndre Jordan was free to throw down a couple of slams early, then helped the Clippers close the game out with his defense in the final minute. Jordan had 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Nick Young provided the bulk of the bench scoring with his 10 points.
Hot: Foye, who had 12 of his points in the second quarter and capped off his night with the big 3-pointer to give the Clippers a one-point lead late. Foye hit 5 of his 10 long-ball attempts.
“My teammates were finding me and I was knocking down shots,” Foye said.
Not: The Clippers pick and roll defense, which was attacked by the Blazers all night. Hickson erupted for a season-high 29 points on numerous drives that ended with buckets right at the basket. Hickson shot 13-of-19 from the field. Even the Blazers backups got in exploiting the Clippers on ball screens -- Jonny Flynn was able to hit Hasheem Thabeet on a back-door alley-oop in the fourth quarter.
“Their high pick-and-roll bothered us,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Obviously, Hickson had a good game. We tried to change up and trap the pick-and-roll, force it down, show on it, and all that. With Batum, Matthews and Crawford, they spread you out with their shooting.”
On the performance of J.J. Hickson, who started in place of an injured LaMarcus Aldridge:
Foye: “J.J. took the place of LaMarcus. That’s usually what LaMarcus does.”
Blazers head coach Kaleb Canales: “We are excited to have him and we believe in him. We have talked about the process with him, getting him more comfortable but we are excited about him going forward.”
On Chris Paul in the fourth quarter:
Del Negro: “I thought Chris did a very good job pushing the tempo with about three or four minutes to go. We weren’t really slowing them down, but they were really slowing us down. He was penetrating and getting a few floaters in the lane. We kept cutting it to two and put pressure on them. I thought by Chris pushing the tempo, getting in the lane and making plays early in the shot clock helped us get our momentum back.”
On the overall performance:
Foye: “It’s a team effort. You have to play team ball. It’s not just the second unit, I think it’s everybody. Some nights they come out and give us a boost and we don’t have it. Tonight it was a tough game that we played. This is our fourth game in a row here. But, they played a heck of a game.”
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