Five Takeaways: Clippers make a late run, but fall short in loss to Blazers
LOS ANGELES — The undermanned Clippers (25-25) lose to the Blazers (28-22), 104-96, in their first game without Blake Griffin.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers win/loss.
1) Gallinari returns —
Near the end of the second quarter, Danilo Gallinari cut from the corner on the baseline, received the ball and proceeded to dunk over two Trail Blazers, symbolizing the forward’s return to good health. After missing the previous 25 games, Gallinari came back and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup, sliding into the spot once occupied by Blake Griffin. Gallinari moved well, putting the ball on the ground and confidently pulling up on jumpers. When smaller defenders were placed on him, he backed them down using his overwhelming size. If the double came, Gallinari’s vision and passing beat the maneuver before it arrived.
In his first game back, he finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds.
2) Lillard keys Blazers attack —
Damian Lillard opened the game with an aerial assault on the Clippers defense, letting threes fly and connecting on nearly all of them, going 4-of-5 from behind the arc. The All-Star only attempted one shot inside the three-point line, a floater. In the second quarter, his backcourt mate C.J. McCollum took the reins, providing a long range attack of his own with two threes and and a total of 10 points.
Lillard ended the game with a team-high 28 points, including a perfect night from the charity stripe, making all 11. McCollum scored 16 points. Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic recorded a 14-point, 20-rebound double-double, grabbing key offensive rebounds late as the Clippers made a late push.
3) Short-staffed —
With three players traded to Detroit, and the three players that came back not yet available, the Clippers entered the game with only nine available players. With such limited options, all nine players played at least 15 minutes. Lou Williams led the team in minutes with 39, and also scored the most points for the Clippers, adding 20, which continued his streak of 20+ points off the bench, making it 13 straight.
The status of new arrivals Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic is unclear for Saturday’s game.
4) Clippers can’t keep up in the third quarter —
Entering the third quarter, the Clippers trailed by five. To end the third quarter, the Clippers trailed by 19. The Clippers offense struggled, making only seven shots out of 30 attempts, and their defense struggled to grab a rebound, with Portland grabbing six offensive boards in the quarter.
“This has been a two-year thing with Portland. When they win the offensive rebound battle, they win the game,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
5) Goon Squad makes run in fourth —
The STAPLES Center crowd urged the Clippers to complete the comeback. LA was on a 23-9 run, and the fans chanted “Defense! Defense!” The Blazers led by as much as 22, but the Clippers fought and clawed their way back to a six-point deficit. The lineup that started the run was composed of Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, Tyrone Wallace and Milos Teodosic.
Harrell scored 15 points, his ninth such game scoring at least that many, matching his total in his first two seasons combined. Tyrone Wallace also added 15 of his own.
What’s Next? —
The Clippers will take on the Chicago Bulls in a Saturday matinee at STAPLES Center.