Damian Lillard heats up in 4th as Blazers top shorthanded Clippers
LOS ANGELES — Damian Lillard finally made his first field goal early in third quarter, and the Portland Trail Blazers knew the game was about to change.
Lillard’s 3-pointer was his only basket in the period, but it was enough to get him going. He scored 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, and the Blazers capitalized on the absence of injured Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-98 on Wednesday night in Game 5 of their first-round series.
"I’ve always been able to put the first three quarters behind me and come up big when my team has needed it," Lillard said. "It wasn’t even so much missing the shots that were bothering me, it was just that I couldn’t get any attempts because they were so aggressive. But I stayed with it, kept my mind right and I saw one go in. That was it."
CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 27 points. They are up 3-2 and could close it out Friday in Portland. If Game 7 is needed, it would be Saturday back at Staples Center.
"We’ve got a unique opportunity to play an elimination game at home, and now we want to make sure we take full advantage of it," McCollum said.
Dame Dollar! https://t.co/8BfXPmixaV
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 28, 2016
Maurice Harkless added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Mason Plumlee had 10 points and 15 boards for Portland. The Blazers made six 3-pointers in the fourth, with Lillard hitting five as they outscored the Clippers 37-27.
"Once he gets an open look and he gets to see that ball go in, his eyes kind of light up, and we know he’s going to finish the game off," McCollum said of his backcourt mate. "He hit some really tough shots and was aggressive despite their tough coverage."
J.J. Redick led the Clippers with 19 points. Jamal Crawford, the Sixth Man of the Year, added 17 points starting in Paul’s place. Jeff Green also had 17 off the bench and DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 17 rebounds.
"We just made some simple mental mistakes and with Blake and Chris out, we cannot really afford to make mistakes," guard Austin Rivers said. "We played pretty good defense overall, I just think we need to be better offensively."
Try as they might, the Clippers could not overcome the double-whammy of losing their two biggest stars. Paul is out indefinitely after breaking his right hand on a freakish play in Game 4, when Griffin aggravated a left quadriceps injury that had kept him out three months during the season. He won’t be back in the postseason.
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 28, 2016
"We were exhausted," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I had to call two timeouts (in the third). That’s not conditioning, that was emotion. They wanted to win. They were just up, and sometimes you get up too much."
Lillard opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, hit another one and then dunked off his steal of Pablo Prigioni. The Blazers ran off seven straight points, capped by Allen Crabbe’s 3-pointer, to go up 90-77.
They weren’t done.
Lillard and McCollum, the league’s Most Improved Player, combined for an 8-0 run, with both hitting 3-pointers that extended Portland’s lead to 102-86.
"I liked the focus and the energy that made the difference," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "It was about just locking into the task at hand."
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 28, 2016
McCollum scored 10 points in the third, when the Blazers led 71-62. The Clippers answered with a 9-0 run, getting a dunk and 3-pointer from Green, to tie it 71-all going into the fourth.
PAUL & GRIFFIN
Paul sat on the bench in the first half and winced when he bumped his surgically repaired right hand. Griffin stayed in the locker room during the game. Rivers confirmed that Griffin had undergone a procedure similar to what Anthony Davis of the Pelicans had last month, in which he was treated with an injection of his own bone marrow which is rich in cells and protein that can reduce pain and promote healing. Davis’ procedure was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Clippers’ team physician. Paul talked to his teammates before the game and Griffin did so at halftime. "Coach Paul was terrific," Rivers said. "They’ve been really involved with their teammates as much as they can be."
Trail Blazers: They outrebounded the Clippers 53-45 and improved to 3-0 when outrebounding the Clippers in the series. … Al-Farouq Aminu followed up his career-high 30 points in Game 4 with seven points, eight rebounds and five fouls.
Clippers: The Clippers fell to 2-5 when neither Paul nor Griffin play since Paul joined the team before the 2011-12 season. … Paul Pierce started in place of Griffin and was scoreless in nine minutes, missing all three of his shots. … They are 2-10 all-time in Game 5 of a best-of-seven series.