Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: Chris Paul was in complete control tonight, making a living from midrange and punishing defenders that were weary of lobs to the Clippers bigs. On 10 of 19 shooting, he lead all scorers with 28 points, also taking game-high honors for assists with 11.
That was … playoff Blake: A pair of poster dunks over Mason Plumlee helped to ease concerns of what the Clippers would get from Blake Griffin this postseason, and when the rebounds and assists started to show up as well, there was little doubt that playoff Blake is back. He was especially aggressive in the post, which lead to 12 free throw attempts — only four attempts shy of his total number of free throw attempts in the 5 games since his return from injury. After the game, both coaches commented after the game that this was the best Blake Griffin has looked in that span.
X factor: The Blazers had little answer for DeAndre Jordan on either side of the floor tonight, and DeAndre made his presence felt through a combination of low post scoring, free throw attempts, and rim protection. On multiple occasions, he would plaster an opponents shot attempt right into the backboard, making tonight his 11th playoff game since 2013 with 4 or more blocks. No other player in the league has had more games in the postseason of 4 or more blocks in that time.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) April 18, 2016
If @deandrejordan6 can work on JUST scoring by off random duck ins in the post, mark my words he will be an All Star next season..
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) April 18, 2016
CP3 with the dish, Blake Griffin with the finish https://t.co/7C6cAMclXX
— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) April 18, 2016
CP3 has got Dame living in his world.
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 18, 2016
Staples just showed a picture of a crying baby on the Jumbo Tron, then cut to Terry Stotts.
— Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) April 18, 2016
Dame said Blazers' defense wants to force opponents into mid-range shots and floaters, but that's a problem because that's CP3's strength
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) April 18, 2016
Check Your Messages
Something to watch: with six minutes left in the game, Doc Rivers sent the starters back into the game after a Portland basket.
The Clippers were up nearly 20.
We don’t think that this means that Doc doesn’t have any confidence in the bench, but he certainly isn’t leaving anything to chance – even if it means subjecting the Ship Gang (and their fans) to the dreaded Hack-a-Shaq on Deandre Jordan.
To be fair, a lot can happen in six minutes of basketball – as these Clippers can attest. Deandre handled his business at the line, nobody was seriously injured (although Chrises Paul and Kaman banged knees shortly after the Clips’ starters returned), and the Clippers solidified their win at about 4:45 with a DJ free throw that activated Lawler’s Law.
So we will look forward to seeing what Doc Rivers decides to do with the rotation for the remainder of the series when the Clippers find themselves with big leads early in the 4th quarter – whether he lets the bench play, or puts the game in the sure hands of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Third Quarter Separation
We’ve seen it before. A favored (entitled) team gets up for an important playoff game, sprints to beefy first half leads, then re-emerges in the third quarter with a lifeless, overconfident display of lazy defense, and sluggish offense. The Clippers were not one of those teams.
The Clippers had their antennas raised the entire game and actually used the critical third quarter to snatch full control of Game 1. Mo Harkless opened the second half scoring with a layup to narrow the Clipper lead to just six. That would be the closest the Blazers would get the rest of this one. On subsequent possessions, the Clippers did what they do – stretch Portland’s bigs to the three-point line, and lose them in Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan double screens, freeing options for direct lines to the rim or corner kick-outs.
The Blazers received very little backup support from their frontline, on a night where the starting backcourt of Lillard/McCollum shot a paltry 35-percent from the field. From the beginning of the 2nd half until the 7:39 mark of the third quarter, the Blazers starters were a combined -9. During this period, the Clippers extended the lead to 17 and took the air out of any 2nd half comeback Portland might have been planning.
Portland’s dynamic backcourt is bound to be better the rest of the series. But nothing in Game 1 indicated how the Blazers will deal with Chris Paul, 25-feet extended, with the Clipper offense on a string.
It’s no secret that Portland PG Damian Lillard struggles against Los Angeles PG Chris Paul. In 12 regular season head-to-head matchups, Lillard averages 16.5 points per game while shooting only 38 percent from the field, with a paltry 1.6 assist/turnover ratio. On the flipside, Paul gives Lillard 22.7 points per game while shooting 49.5 percent from the field, with a healthy 4.7 assist/turnover ratio. It’s a bit of a mismatch, especially offensively.
Paul-Lillard was a major mismatch in Game 1. Paul took a backseat to PF Blake Griffin in the first half, as Griffin got to the line repeatedly on his way to 13 points and 8 rebounds. But Paul scored 14 points in each half, scoring a game-high 28 overall on 10-of-19 shooting from the field, with 11 assists and only two turnovers. Paul’s aggression was uncommon: he only had one game since the All-Star break with more than 19 field goal attempts, and that was way back on February 26 at Sacramento when he scored a season-high 40 points on 20 shots.
Conversely, Lillard had yet another forgettable night against the Clippers, making only 7-of-17 field goals (41.2 percent) while committing a game-high four turnovers. Worse, he and SG C.J. McCollum played more than 37 minutes each in a 20-point Clippers win, highlighting the depth challenges Portland has in this series. Paul played a team-high 32 minutes, which was right in line for his season average (career-low 32.7 minutes per game).
After the game, Lillard described the difficulty of guarding Paul: “It was our same defense – force guys off the three-point line, make them shoot midrange, pullups, and floaters, and you live with the result. Unfortunately, that’s [Paul’s] game. He loves that area. We contested a lot of those shots in his isolations. We were physical, we were right there. A player at his level, he’s going to make those shots sometimes, and tonight he made them.”
Force Over Finesse
A young boy in Section 215, exasperated by a start that lacked pace, had one and only one exclamation to make each time the Clippers took the ball down to their half of the court:
“Shoot a three-pointer!”
On most nights, a Clippers game might have a couple makes within the first couple minutes of the contest. Tonight was not one of those nights.
But tonight also signaled a shift in the game that was positive in other ways; instead of spacing out for the three-point shot, the team — which, to Portland’s credit, was often times run off the three-point line — focused on the mismatch down low, posting Blake Griffin multiple times. The sheer threat of the Clippers frontcourt scoring at the rim was also enough to allow for many drives from Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers backcourt to drive straight to the rim.
The team ended the night scoring 48 points in the paint, over 10 points higher than their season average of 37.7. At the same time, the team only attempted 17 three pointers, which is down from their average of 26.7 over the last 82 games.
It took over 27 minutes of game time for the Clippers to finally hit the first of their six threes on the night. If the first 24 minutes proved anything, though, it’s that they can do just fine if they focus on scoring at the rim.