Clippers second unit beats Blazers, 122-117

by Kevin Nesgoda

The Blazers came into another must win game against the Los Angeles Clippers 3-1 since the restart. The Clippers are one of the best teams in the league and a championship favorite. This morning they were without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley, and Montrezl Harrell, but still had Paul George and Lou Williams. Both those guys are able to light it up at a minutes notice.

Portland had numerous chances to take advantage of the shorthanded Clippers and could not get the job finished and fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, 122-117.

The Clippers finished the game with Paul George on the bench for the final nine minutes of the game.

First Quarter Thoughts

Through the first six minutes of the quarter the Blazers did a great job of moving the ball around, getting everyone involved. This is the type of action that will allow guys like Carmelo Anthony to benefit throughout the game. Melo had an early eight points and his game looked real smooth and confident, unlike the game against the Nuggets on Thursday.

In his four minutes on the court Zach Collins also looked like a more confident player too. His defense was smart and not sloppy like it had been through the restart and when he knocked down his one corner three he didn’t hesitate. The ball dropped straight through the hoop.

Terry Stotts has gone deep into the bench today without Hassan Whiteside. Gary Trent Jr. is usually the first one off the bench, but today it was Mario Hezonja in for Collins. Wenyen Gabriel even got a few minutes in the first quarter as well. Stotts has been running a tight bench lineup, but as the restart has progressed we’ve seen guys getting extra minutes. Let’s see how the Blazers adjust to the different rotation.

Portland looked to be building a solid lead through the first, pushing it out to nine, but their bench came in to go against Lou Williams and JaMychal Green and did not fair well. The end of the quarter became a shootout.

Blazers won the quarter, 37-34.

Second Quarter Thoughts

What can I say about Gary Trent Jr. that I haven’t said already this week? He continues to be the best three point shooter in the NBA in the restart and he continues to be the best defender for the Blazers. I have to give props to Wenyen Gabriel for coming off the bench for the first time during the restart and immediately matching up with Paul George. Gabriel played some intense defense on George, even getting a gorgeous steal five feet behind the three point line that led to a lob from Trent Jr. to Anfernee Simons.

The Blazers gave up 69 points in the half, but their defense was better than that throughout the half. They forced the Clippers into a lot of tough shots and gave up very few open three pointers. The rotations were pretty on point for the most part. The Clippers are a great team full of great shooters so they are going to knock down shots against the best defenses in the league. Really impressed with how the Blazers played in the half. Damian Lillard is primed for another big second half.

Jusuf Nurkic has been a little quiet on the scoring portion of the stat sheet, but he has eight assists that has led to 12 Blazer points. He’s finding different ways to make an impact in games so far in the bubble. I was really starting to think that Hassan Whiteside might be the long term answer at center for the Blazers, but Nurk is a very special player and I had forgotten that.

I will not forget that ever again.

Blazers lead 75-69 after one.

Third Quarter Thoughts

We’re witnessing the Blazers third quarter lull to start the half. The defense is trapping Paul George almost every time he has the ball. George is then finding open teammates for shots and the Blazers are a step or two behind on the rotation each time. This has led to a lot of good looking jumpers by the Clippers. They aren’t knocking the shots down like they normally do, but they are doing enough to cut the Blazers lead down.

Stotts has apparently also made the decision to let Nurkic or Collins cover Reggie Jackson to start the half and that has not worked out so well. Reggie has knocked down a couple baskets and gotten a couple of assists in the half.

The third quarter was sloppy by both teams. The defensive intensity did pick up, but at the same time we saw a lot of bad passing by both side, poor rotations, off the ball offensive guys dragging extra defenders into the paint as teammates drove.

You’ll usually see one team be a bit more disjointed than the other in a quarter, but not both teams.

Blazers hold a 96-95 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

The quality of play has not picked up in the fourth quarter. Blazers are again slow on rotations out to the three and it costs them the lead off a wide open Jamychal Green three from the corner. Zach Collins has been getting worse and worse on rotations and close outs throughout the game. He was hustling to those in the first quarter and no he is not making the effort to get out there.

Blazers are looking to get Jusuf Nurkic going in the post this quarter. The past few games they looked to do this early to get him some confidence early on. Today they focused on getting a hot start from Melo and Dame. Nurkic has affected the game in other areas (assists and steals). He still continues to struggle on his finishing.

Gary Trent Jr. is having another ball game. It looked like he might start coming back down to earth in the third quarter, but he’s back to doing what he does best in the fourth, knocking down open threes. Trent Jr. might be the best player right now in the bubble. It’s a coming out party for him.

CJ McCollum is having a great ball game himself. He’s had some really clutch three pointers in the quarter.

Portland had a chance to really pull away in the final four minutes, but the offense slowed down way too much. Shots were coming late in the shot clock with hands in faces, and very little ball movement. This is not the offense that built the Blazers a lead. They are a bit susceptible to this during games.

Next Up

Blazes don’t get a lot of rest as they take on the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow at 3:30 PM PST.

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