Game 81 and two roads diverge. Long were the Clippers, rote for the draft lottery, hoping for the player that would pull the franchise from the muck. The Blazers often had eyes turned upwards toward the sky, hoping for the luck every team needs to conclude a season hoisting a trophy, ending a multi-decade drought: In the nineties with Drexler, Porter, Kersey. Then the early aughts of Pippen, Rasheed, Stoudamire. Through the heartbreak of a different kind in Roy, Aldridge, Oden.
And as Portland packs up their season, starting the rehab process yet again, the Clippers are looking for the good fortune that seemingly eluded so many Blazers teams. Dual paths, both teams take. Each familiar with the road Portland walks, but neither knowing how high the Clippers will climb.
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
MVP: Caron Butler. Portland’s listless play defensively allowed Butler to spot up in the corner and shoot wide-open jumpers to his heart’s content. Butler’s game-high 22 points felt merciful, as at least they weren’t dunks.
Defining moment: What happens when LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Batum sit out, and one of the worst benches in NBA history gets more time? Try one made field goal during a brutal 10-minute span in the second quarter.
That was … business and pleasure: The Clippers needed a win and some rest first and foremost, but they still satiated the Staples faithful with a few eye-popping highlight plays.
– D.J. Foster
Tweet(s) of the Game
If the Lakers produced LAC’s season, we’d be calling them serious contenders.
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) April 17, 2013
Blazers’ defense reeeaaaaly struggling. MT @blazerfreeman: A guy just made a half-court shot during a timeout to win a Dodge.
— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) April 17, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
Sean Highkin of USA Today Sports joins in to chat about Portland’s future and how he feels about the potential Clippers playoff matchups.
Check Your Messages
A benefit of being on the winning end of a blowout win is the opportunity to uncontroversially sit your primary contributors, giving them rest when they otherwise wouldn’t expect it. With tomorrow night’s matchup in Sacramento looming, this blowout win enabled Vinny Del Negro to spread the minutes. While the second unit scored a meager eleven points in the fourth, the quarter sailed after starters left them with a 25+ point margin. Some of the starters rested half of the game…
Blake Griffin: 27 minutes
Chris Paul: 24 minutes
DeAndre Jordan: 24 minutes
Caron Butler: 24 minutes
Considering that Sacramento’s hopes of keeping the Kings around is by all measures a tossup, there’s no doubt the hometown crowd will treat tomorrow like a game 7.
- Michael Shagrin
Wait A Minute, How Did They Win?
It doesn’t quite seem possible, but I’m fairly certain the Clippers played a game in which they (a) played noticeably poorly compared to normal standards, and (b) won by 16.
They shot just 26 percent from three, attempted just 15 free throws, and had a turnover percentage north of 16 percent. Defensively, the Blazers weren’t exactly laboring to find open shots, even if those shots weren’t falling.
The Clippers didn’t win the game so much as the Blazers lost it. The Blazers attacked rebounds with the passion of a Florida retiree on the back nine – the Clippers were plus-18 on the boards and rebounded 33.3 percent of their own misses. Even more impressively, they held the Blazers to an offensive rebound rate of just 11.6 percent. Once the ball was inside the paint, Portland played defense as if they were heliophobic and the ball was the center of our solar system. The Clippers shot 23-of-30 within five feet of the basket, an ungodly 77 percent. Most were un- or barely-contested layups and dunks, some delivered with particular flair.
The Blazers have understandably given up on the season. They’ve shelved LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Matthews, and Nic Batum with various injuries such as “right hangnail dislocation,” “bruised ego,” and “sprained left tank” (possibly exaggerated). As a result, the Clippers were met with little resistance on their forays to the basket.
- Jeremy Conlin
When 2K Sports creates NBA 2K14, can Even Quarter Caron Butler and Odd Quarter Caron Butler have separate overall ratings? And Odd Quarter Butler was at it again tonight. 4-for-5 from three in the third quarter with 18 points. Not bad.
Butler’s season splits:
First quarter: 15.8 points per 36 minutes
Second quarter: 11.8 points per 36 minutes
Third quarter: 18.0 points per 36 minutes
Fourth quarter: 10.5 points per 36 minutes
It could be the fresh legs. It could be that Butler gets more minutes in those odd quarters. Either way, the ball is making plenty of Carondezvouses with the net for Odd Quarter Butler.
- Fred Katz
Clippers’ Future In Hands Of Paul, Griffin
When Paul and Griffin move quickly into their action and Griffin dives hard, defenses get flustered. Back line defenders scamper to Griffin on the roll. Wings come off shooters such as Billups, Crawford, Caron Butler and Willie Green, leaving Paul with a menu of options. That’s the Clippers’ half-court offense at its best, but almost everything is predicated on that waltz between Paul and Griffin.
Asked about the evolution of his pick-and-roll with Griffin, Paul challenged the idea that team success was an exclusive endeavor.
“It takes five people on the court, not just two people to make it happen,” Paul said. “People think it was just [John] Stockton and [Karl] Malone, but it was [Jeff] Hornacek, it was those guys around them that made all of that possible.”
Point taken, but it was stocktonan’malone that became commonplace in the basketball vernacular, not stocktonan’malonean’hornacekan’russell. The Clippers have plenty of candidates to play the part of Hornacek, but only two who can fulfill the lead roles when the curtain goes up this weekend.
- Kevin Arnovitz, for ESPN.com