Los Angeles Clippers
Portland Trail Blazers
MVP: Al-Farouq Aminu had his revenge game against the Clippers in grand playoff fashion, scoring 30 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. The 30 points, as well as his 6 made three-pointers, would be career highs.
That was … the darkest timeline: It’s not only that the Clippers were unable to take a game in Portland, but that they are going home with injuries that will affect the team’s makeup for the remainder of the postseason. Chris Paul’s broken finger will likely mean he’s seen his last game of this year’s playoffs. Blake Griffin is questionable after re-aggravating his quad. J.J. Redick’s bruised left heel is an issue he admits he’ll have to deal with through the playoffs.
X factor: After two games where they won the rebounding battle, the Clippers have once again lost the battle on the glass by double-digits.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Feel awful for Chris Paul. So many years searching for a championship, and he’s playing so great this postseason only to get this — now.
— Jimmy Spencer (@JimmySpencerUN) April 26, 2016
Fracturing your hand is a fluke injury, but this makes for 5 out of 5 postseasons as a Clipper that Chris Paul has been hurt at some point.
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) April 26, 2016
1,000 words pic.twitter.com/6fnonrRW3F
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 26, 2016
Doc Rivers on Chris Paul "it doesn't look good for him." On Blake Griffin, "it doesn't look great for him either." https://t.co/fSAGJs5b2O
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 26, 2016
this is one of the worst nights in clippers franchise history
think about that
— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) April 26, 2016
Check Your Messages
Aminu finally found his shot.
Crabbe finally had a decent game.
Chris Paul broke his finger.
JJ Redick couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat (probably related to his earlier heel injury).
Blake Griffin aggravated the quad injury he’d been recovering from.
The referees were… Sigh. Moving on.
Even Austin Rivers took a big hit, with Portland forward Ed Davis landing on top of him.
Everything that could go wrong for the Clippers tonight, did. Make no mistake, this will affect the remaining games against the Blazers, and the next series as well. Not to be a negative Nancy, but things aren’t looking too great fit the Clippers’ hopes this year – which may just become another in the recent string of disappointing, injury-riddled playoff eliminations.
This is called Bill Walton. But it’s not about injuries. It’s about Mason Plumlee.
Specifically, Plumlee has been the engine while Portland blazes this trail through the 1st round. In Game 3, Plumlee had 21 rebounds (first 20-rebound performance in the playoffs by a Trail Blazer since Sam Bowie) and nine of the team’s 15 assists. In Game 4, Plumlee had 14 more rebounds and ten more assists, while adding three blocked shots.
Plumlee’s passing from the pivot has been Bill Walton-like. Walton, the 1977 NBA Finals MVP and 1978 NBA MVP, was never a 20-point per game scorer, regular season or postseason. But his work as a rebounder, passer, and defender is why he’s a Hall-of-Famer. Plumlee, in Year 3, hasn’t looked for his shot (8 points on 11 shots in Games 3-4). But he has kept the Clippers off balance on Portland’s offense (even though Portland still hasn’t scored 100 points in a game), while he has helped neutralize the Clippers’ offense.
So now, the series is a best-of-3. The Clippers have homecourt advantage. That doesn’t matter much, because the Trail Blazers are bringing their full squad (sans C Meyers Leonard), while PG Chris Paul (hand), SG J.J. Redick (heel), and PF Blake Griffin (quad) are all questionable at best going forward. The healthy Clippers are going to have their chance to show up and keep the ship going, starting with C DeAndre Jordan.
But the biggest move head coach Doc Rivers has to make is to figure out how to stop a player that doesn’t score or shoot but does everything else at a game-changing level.
Rolling the Boulder
It’s obvious that the Clipper offense won’t be the same without Chris Paul. He is the ringleader, the conductor, the racecar driver, the engine, the triggerman, the brain, the little pilot in the glass-windowed heart of a sky-scraping mech. He is whatever metaphor you want to use for the person at the center of everything. But in this series, against this Blazers team, the Clippers’ offense isn’t the central issue – it’s their defense.
In the first two games they trapped and rotated, made good choices and forced tough shots en route to two comfortable wins. Make no mistake, Chris Paul was a huge part of that defense, hassling and harassing Dame Lillard into bad shots, rushed passes, and difficult decisions. But we’ve heard over and over again that Austin Rivers is a defensive specialist now, that he can slide in and cover wing players of all shapes and sizes – well, now he has a chance to prove it. On a bad night the Clippers can still get quality looks against Portland’s 20th ranked defense, and even with three of their best scorers hobbled they have the talent to knock them down, so this becomes a show-me moment for the Clippers’ defense and the coaching staff’s schemes.
If they can slow down McCollum the Liberal Arts Legend and Mace Windu the Plumdog Millionaire and Dame Lillard the Baby From Those Terrible Commercials, then this is still very much a series. And if they can’t, then we may soon be adding the Point God to a long line of tragic heroes – Sisyphus, Tantalus, Prometheus, and Paul.