If the playoffs started today, the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers would meet in the first round… please let that happened. Defense? Who needs it? We want Blake Griffin vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. We want dunks and threes. This matchup would just be entertaining.
When these two teams first met the day after Christmas it took a dramatic Nicolas Batum three to send the game to overtime where Portland pulled away.
Wednesday night was similar — 40 lead changes with neither team leading by more than seven points the entire way. But the Clippers went on a late 8-2 run and that was enough to get them a 122-117 win.
That evens the season series 1-1, with the third and final meeting on the final night of the regular season. That game could end up mattering in the playoff chase.
The question about both of these teams heading into the second half of the season is defense and not a lot of it was on display Wednesday — the losing Trail Blazers had an offensive rating of 116.2 points per 100 possessions (the Clippers were at 127.6). Portland has now lost three of four and they gave up an average of 117.3 points in those three losses. This game fit with that — it was tied 61-61 at the half.
The Clippers scored wherever they wanted — they were 25-of-30 in the restricted area and 13-of-27 in the midrange, plus 4-of-10 from deep. Portland’s defense let the Clippers just get good looks, particularly dunks and lay-ups, all night long.
Leading the way was Blake Griffin, who had 36 points on 21 shots, plus he pulled down 10 rebounds. Jamal Crawford had 25 points, Chris Paul 20 points and 12 assists.
Portland on the other hand was taking jumpers, but that’s what they do and they were knocking them down.
LaMarcus Aldridge was answering Blake early. Aldridge was coming off a rough 5-of-22 shooting night so he came out hot in this one — he missed his first shot but then knocked down his next seven in a row. He finished the game with 25 points. Damian Lillard added 21.
But Portland’s shots didn’t fall when it mattered most. The Trail Blazers took a 115-114 lead on Damian Lillard free throws with 3:15 left in the game, but then shot 1-of-8 down the stretch. They were settling for deep threes and the shots weren’t falling.
The Clippers defense wasn’t good, but it was better when it mattered and you can see flashes of them playing elite defense.
I just want to see that tested by the Blazers in the playoffs. It would be a great series.