Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: Amidst the throes of a scoring drought, the Clippers turned to Jamal Crawford. The 36 year old guard proceeded to act as the team’s own personal El Niño, making it rain for the remainder of the second half. He would score 19 of his 25 points in the last 17 minutes of the game, and consistently washed away any Portland lead.
That was … a SEGABABA: With both teams on the second night of a back to back and both teams having flown in the night before, much of the game moved at a slow, lethargic pace, playing well below the level of offense one might expect from the 6th and 8th ranked teams in the NBA in points per game. It wasn’t until the final three minutes of the contest that the game reached another level in terms of scoring and overall intensity, but once it did, it delivered in spades.
X factor: From the Chris Paul pass through Mason Plumlee’s legs to the wall of a pick that DeAndre Jordan set on C.J. McCollum to the J.J. Redick’s movement off said pick for the game winning buzzer-beater — the first of Redick’s career — the strengths of the Clippers offense were on full display for the final play of the game. Each aspect of the play took precise execution from the team’s three best players sans Blake, and in a single 1.1 second sequence, they showed how each of them are so crucial to the Clippers offensive attack.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Ralph Lawler with the call…https://t.co/MxHAnWo6yV
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 25, 2016
Just kidding!!! pic.twitter.com/9fPKETqWzb
— Alexis Morgan (@alexiskmorgan) March 25, 2016
Omaha Steaks gonna get some extra orders tonight.
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) March 25, 2016
— Isaac Lowenkron (@isaaclowenkron) March 25, 2016
— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) March 25, 2016
Check Your Messages
Just picture signing up for a marathon. No matter how well-conditioned you are, you are going to be dog-tired by mile twenty-six. Only 1/5 of a mile to go! You’ve got this! ….Yeah, right. That point-22 miles is going to be the worst of your life.
Now imagine if, instead of a bottle of water or a cooling breeze, mile twenty-four greeted you with a mandatory 100-meter sprint.
That was Thursday night’s game. On the second night of a back-to-back for both teams, the Clippers and Trailblazers combined to go 11-44 from 3-point land (THOSE LAST TWO THOOOOOOOOOOO). Rotations were blown, timing was off, the only rebounds either team corralled were by virtue of the ball falling off the rim and landing in a player’s hands, and both coaches resorted to Hack-a-Shaq late in the first half, which may have been as much a cheap option to buy their guys some rest as it was a strategy for slowing the other team’s scoring. In the midst of this perfect storm of putrid peach-basket play, the Clippers were able to dig into their reserves’ reserves and limp to the win (some – like Chris Paul after banging knees with a Blazers player – quite literally).
It was ugly, painful basketball, with not a whole bunch to be gleaned from the matchup, strategy-wise. We know who both of these teams are. After all, it’s been 70 games. At this point, it might not be the better team that wins, just the least tired one. With 12 games left, both groups are going to be doing whatever they can to keep from being the latter.
The Push Through
The Clippers circumstances are far from ideal at the moment. They have been without Blake Griffin for so long it almost feels strange imagining him back. They came into tonight’s tilt with Portland on a full limp from a 1-4 road trip that wreaked of exhaustion. This team is simply out of gas and just reaching the playoffs without injury is probably a victory in itself.
Enter Damian Lillard and a Blazer team that is probably the surprise of the league this season. Lillard himself struggled but the game had the feel of an early November game – both teams sleepwalking and drudging possession to possession trying to feel it’s way into some rhythm that never really happened.
Chris Paul’s burden on offense is downright alarming but help was on point tonight in the form of Jamal Crawford’s efficient 25 – including two late 3’s that allowed for J.J. Redick’s game winner. This type of Crawford game will probably not be a nightly event which is fine if they can close the gap on their season long rebounding discrepancy (they won that tonight), or take care of some games by double digits allowing the starters some downtime. Both of those scenarios won’t be easy – six of their final 11 games are against playoff teams, which mean’s they are likely going to have to fine tune quickly and on limited rest.
I’ve been harping on the Clippers inability to rebound all month. Let’s recap:
– The only players averaging 4.0 rebounds or more for the Clippers this month are C DeAndre Jordan (13.8 per game), PG Chris Paul (4.5 per game), and C Cole Aldrich (4.3 per game).
– The only other team with only three players averaging at least 4.0 rebounds a game in March are the Minnesota Timberwolves.
– The Clippers are the only team in the league with only one player with more than 300 total rebounds this season.
– The Clippers were outrebounded in every game this month entering Thursday night – 11 straight games, a stretch that has seen the Clippers go 4-7.
– The poor rebounding has resulted in the Clippers being a bottom-5 defense this month.
That’s not good, and you shouldn’t need Taurean Prince to explain that.
And now the Clippers had the Trail Blazers coming in here. The Blazers haven’t played well this month either, failing to win back-to-back games. But the Clippers were on a season-worst stretch of three straight losses and five losses in six games.
Returning home after the final five-game road trip gave the Clippers an element to their game we hadn’t seen all month: rebounding! And I mean team rebounding.
Jamal Crawford’s scoring and J.J. Redick’s clutch finish aren’t to be overlooked, but DeAndre Jordan had a game-high 13 rebounds. His final rebound gave the Clippers the possession and opportunity to take this game home without overtime – critical, being that Jordan had five fouls.
And overall, the Clippers had 47 rebounds to Portland’s 41. The last time the Clippers outrebounded a team was on Leap Day vs. the Nets – Chuck the Condor made his season debut and Steve Ballmer dunked.
Going back to the team: Jordan led the charge on the glass, and Paul and Aldrich actually tied for 2nd with 5 each. Nothing new. But 10 of 11 players had at least two rebounds (Crawford only grabbed one, but 18 4th quarter points should make up for that). Rebounding is an effort thing. L.A. needed every one to steal a game they trailed by seven points with under 3 minutes to go.