PORTLAND, Ore. — All it came down to for the Portland Trail Blazers was execution.
Through the first two games against the Clippers in Los Angeles, both losses, Portland got plenty of open looks that simply didn’t go down. It was a different story Saturday, as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 59 points to help the Blazers beat the Clippers 96-88, cutting Los Angeles’ series lead to 2-1.
“I was aggressive at the start of the first two games,” Lillard said after the game. “I shot the ball well in the first half of the first game, that game didn’t turn out so well. Last game, we made the right adjustments, I got good looks early and I just didn’t make them.”
On Saturday, that changed, as he shot 10-for-20, including three made three-pointers. He provided the offensive spark to complement the Blazers’ solid defensive effort, which included a 21-rebound performance by Mason Plumlee.
“I was pleased with our defense overall,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They had 88 and I thought our defense was pretty consistent throughout the night, whether it was our bench players or our starters. We didn’t have a real lull defensively other than maybe a little bit in the third quarter when they made a run. The fact that we were able to stem the tide defensively, it’s not like we had a great offensive night, I thought our defense was pretty solid and kept us in a position to win the game.”
That defense had been solid for stretches in the first two games, but the Blazers put it together for a consistent end-to-end effort in Game 3, and it resulted in a win.
“We were active,” Lillard said. “We had a presence. I think in the first two games, were doing the coverages that we were supposed to be doing, we were doing the right things, but we didn’t play aggressive enough. We didn’t make them feel us enough. But we still had good defensive games. I think tonight, we took it up a level. We really asserted ourselves. We played like a team that needed to win a game.”
The Clippers shot just over 40 percent as a team and an abysmal 3-for-18 from three-point range. Other than a 26-point, 9-assist performance from Chris Paul and 16 rebounds from DeAndre Jordan, they didn’t get much production out of anyone. The Clippers credited the Blazers for stopping what had been a high-powered offensive attack in the first two games.
“I thought they did a great job,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought they were way more physical than us. I think the ball pressure got into us. They sped us up. I don’t think we handled it very well, but I thought they had a great defensive plan. I just thought they were the more physical, tougher team tonight.”