Blazers blow 35-point lead, fall to Clippers 115-109 in preseason finale
The Portland Trail Blazers led the Los Angeles Clippers 45-17 after the first quarter. Their lead got as high as 35 points, but they eventually lost to the Clippers 115-109 despite 39 points, nine assists and five rebounds from point guard Damian Lillard in the preseason finale Thursday.
In some ways, Portland’s success tonight was indicative of how it will go in the regular season. When things go right, it’s going to happen because Lillard and McCollum make it happen. McCollum had 22 points and four assists on 8-of-20 shooting. They sparked the dominant start to the game but everyone who played had a hand in it. But their collapse was, perhaps, just as telling.
Portland’s defense was quick, disruptive and helped the offense get in transition. The Blazers got to the rim and they got open 3-pointers. The Clippers–who just the other night routed the Warriors led by their starting five–were in danger of being run out of the gym. Blake Griffin continued to play well, but almost nobody else followed. After gearing up for a game against a rival in a nationally televised game, perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a shock that they didn’t show up early on.
Portland, on the other hand, could do no wrong. Allen Crabbe hit a pair of 3-pointers. Pat Connaughton got in on the act. The Clippers announcers were calling McCollum a “carbon copy” of Lillard as he put Clippers defenders in the mixer. But then the shots stopped falling and the Clippers turned up the intensity.
The Blazers ran furiously, which will be a key to them winning games with a young team. They used the youth to their advantage. But the youth also caught up with them eventually and so did the Clippers. The Clippers started trying to deny Lillard the ball and the Blazers couldn’t find other avenues to get quality looks. But even when they did, they just stopped going down, which is going to happen.
The Blazers started to fall apart offensively, let the game get ragged and that was mostly due to the fact the Clippers dug in defensively. They were more active on that end, forcing Portland’s offense into tough spots. Portland also lost track of Clippers shooters on the other end, allowing far too many quality looks from long-range.
And even after a tough end to the half, Portland still led by 72-54.
But the Clippers kept coming, getting the Blazers lead down to single digits before the fourth quarter. Portland’s offense struggled, they got cold from long-range and they couldn’t get any quality looks at the rim. Both due to their own execution and the Clippers’ energy, they couldn’t respond.
To be clear, the Clippers starters got the lead down to a manageable distance. But it was their reserves, Paul Pierce (19 points), Austin Rivers (16 points), Josh Smith and WESLEY JOHNSON who wrestled the game away. Lillard and McCollum played the entire fourth quarter.
It was a tough loss for the Blazers to swallow, but tonight we saw the wild ride this Blazers season will likely be. They’re going to be fun at times and then at others you’re going to wonder, what the hell just happened?
- Al-Farouq Aminu missed his third straight preseason game with a left hamstring strain. His back-up, Moe Harkless, left the game in the second half with a right ankle sprain. Allen Crabbe played 34 minutes tonight. Crabbe had some nice moments offensively but altogether it was a tough night for him, going 3-for-11 from the field. With Gerald Henderson still on the mend, that’s a lot of injured Blazers wings. Cliff Alexander is also still working his way back from a bone bruise.
- Tim Frazier and Phil Pressey both got DNP-CD’s. Stotts has said multiple times he wanted the preseason finale to simulate a regular season-type of rotation. It’s clear that whichever one makes the team, they won’t be playing very much. Roster cuts must be made by October 26.
- Stotts left Vonleh in while the Clippers continued their fourth quarter run. He had some nice moments, but Stotts ultimately took him out to bring back Meyers Leonard to try and win the game. Obviously, it didn’t happen.
- The Clippers were 11-of-17 from 3-point range in the second half. Portland made eight of their nine 3-pointers in the first half.
- According to the broadcast, Doc Rivers and Stotts got into it on the sideline during the fourth quarter. Stotts, according to the Clippers announcing team, had some kind of issue with players on the Clippers bench being on, or close to the field of play while trying to distract Portland shooters. If more on this comes out of LA, we’ll update you. It was probably the best thing that happened all night. UPDATE: Jason Quick, now writing for CSNNW.com, recapped both sides of the shouting match and the team reaction.
- The Blazers will be eager to put this loss behind them, but it was not a good way to end a preseason that had so many positives. However, now we can all rejoice. For the preseason is over and real basketball is right around the corner.