Portland Overcomes Slow Start To Blow Out Clippers In L.A.

by Casey Holdahl
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LOS ANGELES -- After starting Sunday’s afternoon matinee in Los Angeles by missing just about everything, the Trail Blazers went on to shoot better than 50 percent from the field to blowout the Clippers 134-106 in front of a crowd of 13,276 at Staples Center.

"Even though we got off to a slow start we just kept playing, plugging away," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I was surprised we were able to come back that quickly. Offensively we were pretty solid. We scored 70 in the first half without CJ (McCollum) really getting it going, Dame (Lillard) looked like he was in form. I was glad to get the guys minutes that we wanted to get minutes."

The Trail Blazers are now 2-1 in preseason play.

Playing their first road contest of the preseason in an early afternoon game, Portland missed six of their first seven shots and found themselves down 18-5 after a Patrick Beverley three-pointer with 7:24 to play in the first quarter. But Portland's shot would start falling soon after that point, with the road team outscoring the Clippers 22-12 in the remainder of the first to cut the lead to 30-27 going into the second quarter.

With the momentum in their favor, Portland would take their first lead of the game early in the second quarter. There was no looking back from there, with the Trail Blazers going up by as many as 14, thanks mostly to 16 second-quarter points from Lillard, while taking a 70-56 lead into the halftime intermission.

Portland would hold a double-digit lead for almost the entirety of the second half. Even with Lillard sitting out the final 12 minutes and Jusuf Nurkić fouling out early in the fourth, the Trail Blazers still managed to extend their lead to 28, the largest deficit of the afternoon, by the final buzzer.

"They got off to a really good start," said Lillard. "They jumped on us, but we stuck with it. We found ourselves, we kept moving the ball, kept trusting each other and played a solid game on the defensive end. We was able to get out in transition, I was able to get it going a little bit, get to the free throw line. It was a good game for me."

Portland was led by Lillard, who went 9-of-17 from the field, 4-of-0 from three and 13-of-13 for 35 points, three rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes.

Maurice Harkless went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field for 16 points to go with four rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes. 

McCollum got hot in the second half to finish with 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 shooting from three. Nurkić added 13 points and nine rebounds before fouling out in 24 minutes.

Rookie Caleb Swanigan started his first game, albeit preseason, for the Blazers, finishing with five points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.

"I thought he was solid," said Stotts of Swanigan. "He didn't necessarily stand out but he made some strong plays in both halves, inside plays. Blake (Griffin) was making his threes, that kind of changed the dynamics, but I thought he competed well."

Swanigan’s fellow rookie Zach Collins had a strong finish to the game, scoring all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter.

“(Collins) hit the three, it was good to see him make that and get a rhythm to his outside shot, made a couple strong post moves,” said Stotts. “He’s always going to compete defensively and contest shots and rebound. It was good to see him make a couple shots more than anything.”

The Clippers were led by Blake Griffin and Milos Teodosic, who both finished with 15 points. 

Next up, the Trail Blazers head to Sacramento to face the Kings in the second night of a preseason back-to-back. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm on NBC Sports Northwest and 620 AM.