Balanced Attack Sinks the Clips
It was a tight, physical game, which, as expected, stayed fairly close throughout. In the end, the Trail Blazers hit bigger shots, played better defense, and defeated the L.A. Clippers 105-97.
During the broadcast we made the comment a few times that the Clippers are a veteran team, and know how to play crunch-time basketball. They are sneaky, and crafty, and are very good at working officials. That's not to suggest that last part worked, but they're good at it. The Trail Blazers though, have shown that they're pretty good at playing with poise in tough games as well, and are now 7-2 on the season, and a perfect 6-0 at home.
It took 51 percent shooting, and some pressure makes at the foul line late in this game, but the Blazers were able to put the game out of reach in the final minute. They held the Clippers, who came into the game second in the NBA in field goal percentage, at 48%, to 45 percent shooting on the night.
For the first time this season, the Trail Blazers placed all five starters in double figures, and used a very well balanced attack to win this game. In previous wins we've talked about how the front court dominated, or how the team held on despite poor shooting from the guards, or how the Blazers survived an off night from the bench. In this game they demonstrated what they've been talking about all along- they don't care about stats, they care about wins.
Gerald Wallace could run for mayor of the city of Portland and win right now. No question in my mind about that. He feeds off the fans at the Rose Garden, and is so difficult to contain on the home floor. He had 20 points, on 8 of 12 shooting, and had his usual number of hustle plays. But, it's his attitude that is the most valuable asset to this team. You're not going to bully him, and you're not going to out work him. That's contagious.
The rest of the frontline was impressive as well. LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points, and was very solid against Blake Griffin. Aldridge carried the Blazers for a stretch in the third quarter, when the Clippers got hot from the field, and played great defense.
Then, there is Marcus Camby. Oh what a difference a healthy Marcus Camby means to this Portland team. His presence inside, even at 37 years of age, is so valuable. Not only did he put up 12 points and 11 rebounds, but he made sure Lob City ended up with exactly ZERO lobs. DeAndre Jordan had one impressive dunk, but that was it. And, if you know anything about the Clippers you know that one dunk is about 10 below their average. Camby had a lot to do with that.
The Blazer backcourt was very solid as well. Wesley Matthews played scrappy defense, hit 5 of his 7 shots, and ended with 18. He also hit some clutch free throws down the stretch. Raymond Felton outplayed Chris Paul in this game. He had 17 points and 8 assists, bettering Paul's 14 points and 4 assists.
Felton is a better shooter than what he's shown so far this season. In the clutch, it's so nice to have a point guard who can dial it in from deep, and doesn't hesitate to pull the trigger. We saw him do that against Denver, and we saw him hit a huge three pointer in this game.
It felt like the Clippers were starting to build momentum for a final charge with just under six minutes left. They had closed to within six points, when Felton dropped in a bomb to push Portland's lead back to nine, at 89-80. Wallace also had a big three with two minutes left, that again put the lead at nine, at 99-90.
We've talked so much about the importance of this three-game homestand, given what lies ahead. The Blazers have won two of them, with one to go. That'll be Wednesday night against Orlando, a team that's been sitting in Portland since Monday morning. Thursday morning we'll head out on a 6-game, 10-day road trip. Getting one more at home, and heading out on that trip at 8-2 would be a very solid 10-game start to the season.