There were several uncertain moments in the second half Thursday night when the Clippers started to regress. They were lackadaisical on defense, gave up too many uncontested shots and seemed on the verge of letting their big lead slip away.
It would not have been surprising if they had. The Clippers were playing on the second night of back-to-back games, they were on the road at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., and they have already suffered occasional lapses in the first two weeks of the season.
But there’s also this: When their intensity level is up, they can be resilient. They have enough productive players, both in the starting lineup and on the bench, to withstand opponents’ rushes.
That’s what they did in a 103-90 victory over the Trail Blazers, getting decisive contributions from center DeAndre Jordan, backup guard Jamal Crawford and several others one night after they defeated the San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers led by 25 in the first half and by 20 at halftime, but they were outscored 32-17 in the third quarter and saw their lead pared to 86-82 with 7 minutes 28 seconds left in the game.
Jordan, who said he spent the offseason working on his offensive game, scored 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting one night after he had 20 against the Spurs. After missing his first six free throws this season, he sank 5 of 7 against Portland.
Crawford came off the bench to lead the Clippers with 25, including 15 in the second half. His three-point shooting was off, but he brings an energy and pace that helps make the Clippers difficult to stop when the reserves are in the game.
Blake Griffin played just 26 minutes and had seven points, but he dropped in a critical baseline jumper after the Trail Blazers had cut their deficit to nine points. Chris Paul then made consecutive jump shots to push the lead back to 15 with 2:11 left.
Paul finished 21 points, six assists and three steals.
The Clippers shot 53 percent from the floor after hitting on 55 percent against the Spurs. But despite giving up a series of outside shots to the Blazers in the second half, they also played effective defense, limiting Portland to 43 percent.
Part of their success was also their rebounding. They beat Portland on the boards by a 44-31 margin.
Hard to believe, but the two games the Clippers lost, to Golden State and Cleveland, they should have won. Had they played at a higher level in those games, they’d be 6-0 now.
Still, a 4-2 record and better intensity aren’t bad.