The Clippers swept their season series with the Portland Trail Blazers, a likely playoff opponent, as Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, and Jusuf Nurkic sat out. Paul George came up clutch, the Clippers won without the three-pointer, National TV Rondo reappeared, so did 4th-quarter Carmelo, and more coming up in this Clippers vs Blazers recap:
All season, the Portland Trail Blazers have thrived in fourth quarters, using their excellence in the clutch to outperform their mediocre overall point differential. With star Damian Lillard joining Jusuf Nurkic on the sidelines, and Kawhi Leonard having been ruled out with foot soreness shortly before game-time, Paul George decided to make Dame Time his own.
George scored 10 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Clippers over the Blazers in Portland, 113-112. George calmly sank the game-tying and go-ahead free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining before teaming with Nic Batum to deter CJ McCollum’s own game-winning attempt as time expired.
All of Paul George’s fourth-quarter points came in the final 6:26, as the Clippers clawed back from a deficit that had grown as large as six with 2:03 remaining. He finished 13-of-22 from the field and added 11 rebounds, clinching his double-double in the third quarter.
George was the Clippers’ most reliable source of offense on a night when their three-point accuracy eluded them. The Clippers converted just 11 of their 38 three-point tries, a 28.9% mark that was their second-worst in a victory this season behind only the 24.1% rate they overcame to beat Detroit last week.
The Clippers’ second star was Rajon Rondo, who added another game and several highlights to his national television legacy. Rondo deployed every tool at his disposal, save the three-pointer, to drive the Clippers’ offense both with and without George on the floor, tallying a game-high seven assists against a lone turnover. He propelled a third-quarter burst that flipped a four-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead, and his energy and aggressiveness helped a creaky bench lineup that held serve in the first half and didn’t totally sink in the second.
His wasn’t the only vintage performance of the night, as Carmelo Anthony scored seven of his 18 points to lead a 15-6 fourth-quarter run that nearly grabbed the win for Portland. (Well, it was Carmelo and some questionable officiating. . . ) His midrange shot doesn’t always fall, but when it does, he can find the opening for one nearly at will.
Portland’s primary offensive contributors were McCollum and Norm Powell, who broke out in a way that Lillard had yet to do in this season series. McCollum scored 28 points and added five assists, mostly evading the Clippers’ defensive focus until the empty final possession. Powell scored 23, with just six coming in the second half as the Clippers increased their defensive intensity. Powell was slithery, almost too much so — the downhill wing didn’t attempt a free throw.
Marcus Morris Sr. scored 14 of his 16 points in a scorching first half before cooling off after the break. Ivica Zubac scored 10 while excelling on his customary rim runs, and could have scored more had he not missed some easy looks — a consistent theme tonight for the Clippers — or been offered more than 28 minutes on the floor. DeMarcus Cousins added 11 points and six rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench, looking engaged and even a little light on his feet.
For the Blazers, Enes Kanter started in Nurkic’s place and recorded nine rebounds, although he was held to just one on the offensive glass. Nassir Little and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were not, as the rangy forwards each pulled down four offensive rebounds.
That does it for this recap of the Clippers’ victory over the Blazers. Stay on the lookout for Lucas’ player grades tomorrow morning, and an episode of TLTJTP soon.
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