Portland Trail Blazers 88 – Los Angeles Clippers 93

Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score a game high 23 points, but it wasn’t enough for a comeback against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Blazers committed 21 turnovers and trailed as many as 17 points in the second half. Down by 2 points with 29.8 seconds in the game, the Blazers allowed Chris Paul to move past everyone for a layup that sealed the game.

Portland shot only 42 percent from the field and only 27 percent from beyond the arc in the loss. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Nicolas Batum scored 15 points and added 8 rebounds for the Blazers.

Blazers vs Clippers Recap

What we learned from Sunday nights Blazers vs Clippers game is that even with Chris Paul it only takes about a quarter and a half to two quarters of solid basketball and one good call from a referee to beat the Clippers.  Unfortunately the Blazers had neither on New Years Day.  Some poor officiating, the most blatant being an allowed time-out call as Chris Paul kneeled with an arm on the ground 2 feet out of bounds directly in front of an official, does not overshadow the 3 quarters of lazy passes, one-on-one ISO and constant switching that handed the Blazers a loss.  I think if that call goes the way it should have, the Blazers even up the game shortly thereafter, but it quashed all momentum.  But, in truth, the Blazers didn’t deserve this win.

The Blazers have frustrated basketball-savvy minds with their switching under McMillan for years now; when asked about it he often gets testy. Perhaps the biggest culprit is our star LaMarcus who has a tendency to switch most of the time, particularly when he is tired, which again, will be a problem for at least several more weeks as conditioning continues to be an issue.  Long, lean and defensive-minded teams and line-ups have the luxury of switching whenever they want, because they have versatile rosters which can guard multiple positions.  The Blazers have the ability to do that as well, but that line-up wasn’t on the floor and their defense (or offense) was not clicking for nearly 3 full quarters.

More troubling was the high amount of turnovers for the second game in a row.  These weren’t so much a result of defensive pressure as they were lazy passes on the perimeter.  The Blazers also went to continual ISO plays instead of re-establishing the offense through LaMarcus when the Clippers bigs were on the bench.

The Blazers are clearly a more talented and capable team, but they will be highly vulnerable to losses if they cannot get just a little consistency. Someone “steps up” every night as Mike Rice likes to say, and tonight that was Jamal Crawford with a side dish of Nic Batum.  However their two-man run came far too late.  Add in some poor officiating down the stretch and you’ve got the first Blazer loss of the season.  I was fairly confident of a 5-1 start, with a loss at Oklahoma.  Now, with a frustrated Laker team coming to the Rose Garden shortly and some uncertainty in the Blazer offense a 3-3 record is quite possible.

The Blazers will need to cut-down drastically on turnovers, back to the 10-12 level of the first two games.  This is not a product of running, but poor perimeter passing as I noted earlier.  They must push the offense through LaMarcus whenever things get unsettled. Nate needs to extend and tighten his lineups, if that makes any sense.  He must play 10-11 guys as he has talked about all pre-season and during the first few games.  He tightens by getting consistent with which people he plays together.

Oklahoma City is the least rusty (apart from Russell Westbrook’s jumper) looking team in the NBA, even more-so than the Heat in my mind. It is difficult to win on their court.  Hopefully with some aggression and consistency the Blazers can grind out a win.

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