FINAL | January 26, 2013 | Rose Garden, Portland, OR  

Clippers

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ERIC PATTEN 

PORTLAND–The Clippers were 2:38 from halting their losing streak at three games.

A stop, a score, one less turnover was likely all they needed.

But a 10-point run by the Portland Trail Blazers to close the game spoiled another monster statistical night from Blake Griffin and sent the Clippers back to Los Angeles with a 101-100 loss Saturday night at the Rose Garden.

The Clippers (32-13), who played without All-Star point guard Chris Paul (bruised right kneecap) for the third straight game and sixth in the last eight, matched a season-high with their fourth loss in a row. But they recovered from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to take a 100-91 lead on a driving dunk by Lamar Odom. The Trail Blazers (22-21) called timeout after the play with 2:38 remaining and the Clippers would go scoreless the rest of the way.

http://www.nba.com/clippers/video/2013/01/27/20130126postPORmov-2365875/index.html

“It feels like a blur right now,” said Jamal Crawford when asked about Portland’s closing run. “I’ll have to look at the tape.”

Crawford had two opportunities in the final 23 seconds to thwart the Blazers’ comeback. He missed a driving layup around J.J. Hickson, who gave Portland the lead on the previous possession with a pair of free throws. After the ball was batted around Crawford tied up Nicolas Batum for a jump ball. Crawford won the tip with the long-armed Batum, but missed a 19-footer that he says he’d take every time.

“The second [shot]?” Crawford said. “I’ll take that shot 10 times out of 10 and make it nine. That’s the one I missed.”

Eric Bledsoe concurred adding, “Jamal will hit that shot a million times.”

Moment of Truth: After Odom’s dunk, rookie Damian Lillard made a seemingly harmless 3-pointer from straightaway. But it spurred a rally that culminated with Hickson’s free throws following a loose ball foul on Griffin as he attempted to grab an offensive rebound. During Portland’s comeback, the Clippers went 0-for-5 from the field, committed a turnover on an errant entry pass by Matt Barnes that was intercepted by Batum and were whistled for two fouls.

Difference Maker: Batum. He rebounded Crawford’s final miss to secure his second triple-double this week. The Blazers used him as a defender and the offensive initiator. He finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists. He nailed a timely 3-pointer off an offensive rebound by Hickson when the Clippers were in the midst of a rally of their own and had his way down the stretch as the primary ball-handler on pick and rolls.

“I liked his matchup handling in pick and rolls,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “A lot of times 3-men aren’t as used to defending pick and rolls as point guards or ones and twos, so I thought that was something we could take advantage of, and just to change things up as well.”

Stat Line of the Night: Griffin. He nearly pulled off his third career triple-double, tallying a game-high 24 points with 10 assists, eight rebounds and four steals.

More Stats: 

Crawford. In his second game back in Portland, where he spent a tumultuous 2011-12 season, Crawford scored 19 points off the bench on 6-for-15 shooting. He broke down Wesley Matthews on a crossover that left Matthews at a standstill to Crawford’s left before he hit a mid-range jumper and also connected on a backdoor alley-oop to Bledsoe for one of his four assists.

Still, the two misses at the end of the game seemed to stick with Crawford afterwards. He shook his head twice while sitting at his locker when talking about missing the layup around Hickson and the jumper over Batum that could have won the game.

Jordan. After struggling to get playing time in the last few games, Jordan played 29 minutes (four shy of his season high for a non-overtime game). He defended Hickson and All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, scored nine points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots, including a perimeter jumper by Hickson.

Bledsoe. As Paul’s understudy, Bledsoe has had an up and down experience over the last six games. On Saturday, he arguably out-played Lillard, a surefire Rookie of the Year candidate. Bledsoe finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. Afterwards he said there are positives he could take out of the game.

“It’s frustrating, but at the same time we got some good things out of it.”

Hot: Portland from 3-point range. It has become a trend this week for teams to make double-digit shots from behind the arc against the Clippers. On Monday and Tuesday it was the Warriors and Thunder, two of the top 3-point shooting squads in the league. But Portland, ranked 26th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, went 11-for-25 (44.0%). They made timely shots as well as a handful that were contested or against the 24-second clock.

“Defensively we didn’t do a good job,” Griffin said. “They hit some tough shots. Some shots 3 or 4 feet behind the 3-point line with the shot clock winding down. On several occasions we played 22-23 seconds of great defense and with two seconds to go, the defense gave up some shots.”

Not: The Clippers of late. They lost for the fourth straight time and are just 7-7 in the month of January.

Quotables:

On Clippers’ defense:

Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro: “We gave up a three and we gave up some back-door lobs. We have to learn, with this group, to finish games. There was an opportunity for us to finish the game. We got after it defensively at times, but giving up back-door lobs and not converting down the stretch is what it’s all about.”

Barnes: “We just need a better effort. You know, defense is all effort,” Barnes said. “We’ve got a quality game plan, but more than anything we’ve got to play hard. We can’t let anything else on the court whether we make turnovers or miss a shot or our offense isn’t going, nothing can affect defense. That’s a mentality, effort and energy that we have to have.”

On playing without Paul:

Crawford: “You’re missing the best point guard out there, so you’re missing him for sure. He can direct, organize and pick teams apart. I thought we did a good job battling in the fourth quarter and getting a lead. We just couldn’t hold onto it.”

On the way the game ended:

Stotts: “To end the game on a 10-0 run with 2 and a half minutes to go was kind of a testament to what we’ve done for most of the season. We don’t quit, we bounce back, we’re resilient. We made big plays. In a game that they dominated us on the boards in the second half, that being said, the second chance points were about even.”  

Notes: Portland ended a two-game losing streak at the Rose Garden to the Clippers… The Blazers made 20 of their 21 free throw attempts (95.2%)… Grant Hill made his first 3-pointer of the season with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter off an assist from Odom… The Clippers moved to 5-10 on the year when trailing after three quarters… The Clippers out-rebounded Portland, 41-32, and shot 49.4% in the loss… Willie Green scored eight points in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers. He has made 14 of his last 20 shots (70.0%) from long distance.

LOOKING AHEAD:
 
SUNDAY, JANUARY 27 WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30

6:30 PM
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

5:00 PM
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES