Chris Paul had a season-high 41 points and 17 assists and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied in the second half for a 126-122 victory over the Trail Blazers, denying Portland a chance at clinching the Northwest Division title Wednesday night.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blazers, who needed a win to secure their first division title since the 2008-09 season when they shared it with Denver.
J.J. Redick added 25 points, including five 3-pointers, and eight rebounds for the Clippers, who trailed by as many as 19 points in the first half and then held off a furious Portland rally at the end.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 29 points, while Damian Lillard had 18 points and 10 assists.
Redick’s 3-pointer pulled the Clippers within 98-97 with 7:36 left, before he added another 3 to give the Clippers their first lead of the night.
Blake Griffin and Paul hit consecutive 3-pointers and the Clippers took at 106-100 lead with 5:25 left. Reddick added a jumper before Lillard’s 3-pointer for the Blazers.
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Paul’s 3-pointer to make it 114-102 appeared to seal it, but the Blazers chipped away, pulling within 122-119 on a pair of free throws from Aldridge with 19 seconds left.
After Paul made free throws on the other end, CJ McCollum hit a 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left that closed Portland within 124-122.
Nicolas Batum fouled Paul, who made both shots, and Portland couldn’t get a clear shot off in the final seconds.
The Clippers (50-26) and the Blazers (48-26) have already secured a place in the playoffs, now they’re fighting for home-court advantage. Both teams, as well as San Antonio, are locked in a battle behind Golden State, Memphis and Houston for one of the top four spots. The Clippers have played two more games than the Blazers.
Even if Portland clinches the Northwest Division, home-court advantage in the playoffs goes to the teams with the best records. However, the division title is a tiebreaker if the two teams vying for the fourth spot finish with identical records.
Portland’s magic number for the division title going into the game was two, but the team was helped by Oklahoma City’s 135-131 loss at to the Mavericks.
Portland jumped ahead 27-17 on Aldridge’s long jumper in the first quarter. He added another jumper at the buzzer to finish the quarter with 16 points and put the Blazers in front 33-26.
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The Clippers pulled within 66-55 on Redick’s 3-pointer late in the half, but Lillard’s layup capped gave Portland a 68-55 lead at the break.
Portland maintained a double-digit margin until Paul’s step back jumper and his toss to DeAndre Jordan for the dunk to close within 75-67. Paul added a 3-pointer to narrow it to 75-70, but Batum momentarily stopped the rally with a 3-pointer of his own.
The game got contentious late in the third quarter when Chris Kaman shoved Paul after a scramble under the net. Paul chased after Kaman, but the refs separated the groups. Following a review, Kaman was handed a flagrant foul.
Clippers: Owner Steve Ballmer was at the game. … Paul has six straight double-doubles against the Blazers.
Trail Blazers: The team awarded Aldridge with this year’s Maurice Lucas award, given to the Portland player that best exemplifies the spirit of Lucas on the court and in the community. Lucas, who played on the 1977 NBA championship team, passed away in 2010 at age 58.