Blazers Come Up Short In The Fourth Versus Clippers

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers, even with Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic, played one of their best games in recent memory Tuesday night versus a Clippers teams that was also short a few of their best players.

But improvement not withstanding, Portland still ended up coming away with a loss.

Clippers forward Paul George scored the last six points of the game, which was just enough to hand the Trail Blazers a 113-112 loss Tuesday night at the Moda Center.

“I like the way we played tonight,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We came up short but I thought tonight, we competed really well against a really good team. We had some opportunities in the last minute that we weren’t able to capitalize on.”

The Trail Blazers are now 32-25 overall and 16-13 at home this season. Portland has now lost four of their last five games and their last six meetings versus the Clippers.

Though Portland was missing a two-fifths of their starting lineup Tuesday night, L.A. also entered the game without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka, making what would have been a daunting task a bit less so. And with both teams missing significant contributors, the result was an even game that featured 19 lead changes and 13 ties.

But after a back-and-forth battle, Portland ended up with a six-point lead after after a Carmelo Anthony 14-footer with just over two minutes to play. L.A. scored the next four points to cut the lead to two, though CJ McCollum responded with a three to push Portland’s advantage back up to five with just over a minute to play.

But those would be Portland’s last points of the game. McCollum missed a diffcult three-point attempt, which the Clippers turned into a transition bucket for George with 33.6 seconds to play that left the Trail Blazers with just a one-point lead.

Portland called time, and on the ensuing possession, Norman Powell got a great look at a corner three that would not find the mark.

“Norm had a great look,” said Stotts. “Norm, I think, has the third-best three-point percentage from the corner, so you couldn’t get a better look than that for Norm.”

George earned a trip to the free throw line on a drive, making both free throws to give the Clippers a one-point lead with 4.8 seconds to play.

McCollum got the final look of the game, an elbow jumper as that he managed to get off before time expired, though it wouldn’t matter, as the shot missed the mark, ensuring yet another loss to a team with a winning record.

“I thought we executed pretty well, I took a bad (shot) that led to a transition shot, so that was my fault,” said McCollum. “But outside of that, I thought we got some good looks. Norm got a great corner three -- I think he might have gotten a corner three earlier in the game and that’s a guy who is damn near 50/40/90 so you live with that every day of the week. Questionable call down the stretch, (George) went to the line. I got a pretty good look from the elbow, thought it was down, a little long. But I thought we competed, I thought we did enough to win tonight and just didn’t get over the hump.”

McCollum led the Blazers with 28 points on 11-of-26 shooting from the field, five assists, five rebounds, two steals and just one turnover in 36 minutes. Powell went 10-of-20 from the field and 3-of-10 from three to finish with 23 points, three assists, a steal and a rebound in 39 minutes.

Carmelo Anthony scored seven of his 18 points in the fourth quarter while also tallying four assists and three rebounds and Anfernee Simons shot 50 percent from the field and from three to end with 13 points in just under 19 minutes.

George led all scorers with 33 points to go with 11 rebounds in 36 minutes. Marcus Morris Sr. added 16 and Nicolas Batum and DeMarcus Cousins each contributed 11 points off the bench.

Next up, the Trail Blazers now host one of their Northwest Division rivals, the Denver Nuggets, in the second game of a back-to-back at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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