Short-handed Trail Blazers beat Clippers

By Lisa Dillman

Los Angeles Times
December 31, 2009

Momentum . . . check.

An injury-ravaged opponent . . . check.

Yet another injury during the game to an already injury-riddled team . . . check.

Instead, it turned into basketball checkmate for the Clippers on Wednesday night at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., when the Trail Blazers held off a frantic charge by the Clippers in the final seconds to win, 103-99.

Perhaps the most perplexing team in the NBA continued its trend of bizarre results. Not only did the Clippers (13-18) fail miserably to build on the momentum created by Sunday night’s last-second victory against the Boston Celtics, they stumbled and fell against Brandon Roy and a largely undistinguished supporting cast.

The undermanned Trail Blazers turned into the undersized Blazers when their only legitimate post player, LaMarcus Aldridge, went out because of an injured left ankle early in the game.

Aldridge, the Trail Blazers’ second-leading scorer, sprained his ankle with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter and did not return. He became the seventh Portland player to go down because of an injury this season. Even Coach Nate McMillan is on crutches on the sideline.

All this seemed to mean nothing as Portland put the hurt on the Clippers again, beating them for the seventh time in their last eight meetings.

Roy had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists after a quiet first half, and the Trail Blazers’ bench outscored the Clippers’ reserves, 40-20.

“There were two areas, obviously: the efficiency they had on offensive boards,” Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said in his postgame television interview. “They had 12 offensive rebounds for 26 points — that’s more than a bucket per offensive rebound. That killed us, and obviously the free-throw line really hurt us.

“We missed 11 or 12 free throws tonight as well [18 for 29]. We gave up too many buckets to guys who came in the game and in some sense outhustled us.”

Chris Kaman led the Clippers with 25 points and nine rebounds, and shooting guard Eric Gordon had a strong second half, finishing with 24 points. In one third-quarter stretch, he scored eight consecutive points to tie it at 69-69.

Baron Davis, the star of Sunday night’s game with the game-winning shot, struggled from the field, making two of 15 shots and finishing with 12 points and 11 assists.

Despite all the Clippers’ miscues and mishaps, they still managed to press the Trail Blazers down the stretch, cutting a 10-point deficit to four points with 18.4 seconds remaining.

But Davis missed a 17-footer with 12.9 seconds left. And after the Trail Blazers turned the ball over with 8.9 seconds remaining, Davis had another crack at it, this time missing a three-pointer with 5.9 left.

“It was really at their end of the floor, they hurt us where we didn’t expect them to be able to hurt us,” Dunleavy said. “We made some careless plays.”