Blazers survive Gordon surge
LaMarcus Aldridge is running his All-Star campaign on the court. In the locker room, he is playing it cool.
Aldridge had 28 points and eight rebounds to bolster his case for a berth on the Western Conference squad in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 108-93 win over the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night.
That he was facing fellow power forward and All-Star candidate Blake Griffin didn’t mean much to him, Aldridge said.
”It really doesn’t matter,” he said. ”I am not getting caught up in that. I think people want me to get caught up in it but I am not. I am about trying to win, and I didn’t do anything extra tonight.”
Wesley Matthews added 28 for the Blazers (24-20), who shot 56 percent from the field and finished the game on an 18-6 run to tie a season-best with their fourth straight win. Rudy Fernandez had 17 points and Andre Miller added 15 for the Blazers, who are 11-2 in their last 13 games at home.
Eric Gordon had 35 points for Los Angeles (16-26) despite playing with an injured tendon on the ring finger of his shooting hand. Griffin was just 6 of 17 from the field but managed to stay productive with 20 points and 18 rebounds.
”I definitely respect his game,” Aldridge said of Griffin. ”He plays the whole game from start to finish. He’s a great talent – athletic, physical and he goes to the basket strong.”
Both power forwards have a strong case for the All-Star team. Griffin is averaging 22.6 points and 12.8 rebounds a game. On Monday, he scored 47 points against Indiana, and he had 27-game stretch of double-doubles come to an end Wednesday against Minnesota.
Aldridge averages 21.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. He has emerged as the team’s most productive player since three-time All-Star Brandon Roy went out in mid-December, but he had a season-low four points on 2-of-10 shooting against Sacramento.
The Clippers had a three game winning streak snapped. Portland took the lead just before halftime and kept it for the rest of the game. Gordon made two 3-pointers and Griffin knocked down a 20-footer to get the Clippers within 90-87. The Blazers went up 96-89 with 3:12 left when Aldridge backed up Griffin and hit a jump hook. Matthews made his fourth 3-pointer and then hit two free throws to put Portland up 101-91. Fernandez scored five straight points to put the Clippers away.
”I thought the Blazers executed much better than we did, in the second half especially,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. ”Our defense was not good enough or tough enough.”
Both teams were playing for the second straight night. The Blazers beat the Kings in overtime Wednesday despite playing without Marcus Camby, whose 11.3 rebounds per game are fifth in the NBA. The Clippers, who started off the season 1-13, have been a different team since the middle of December, and they won for the 11th time in 15 games against the Timberwolves Wednesday night.
The Clippers started the game by sprinting to a 16-2 lead, but the Blazers went on a 21-5 run, with Matthews hitting two 3s to tie the game at 23. Randy Foye made a pull-up jumper and a 3 to put the Clippers up 40-35, but Matthews made his third 3 in the half to put Portland up 47-45.
Portland led 84-71 in the third after Nicolas Batum made back-to-back 3-pointers. Miller scored on an alley-oop and then a breakaway layup to extend the lead to 90-79 with 9:02 left in the game.
NOTES: The Blazers are 14-7 without Roy and 4-1 without Camby this year. … Batum had 10 points after scoring a season-high 24 against Sacramento. … The Clippers have lost five straight to Portland at the Rose Garden, by an average of 15.8 points. … Baron Davis had 16 for the Clippers.