The Rose City is still thorny for the Clippers.
They haven’t won at Portland since April 11, 1999, when Mike Dunleavy was coaching against them, a string of losses that reached 11 Friday night when the Trail Blazers pricked them again, bursting their two-day-old bubble.
In a reversal of their eye-popping season-opening rout of the Seattle SuperSonics, in which they never trailed, the Clippers never led after the opening two minutes against the Trail Blazers and lost, 94-81, in the Rose Garden.
Gunning for only the third 2-0 start in their 21 seasons in Los Angeles, the Clippers made only 43.9% of their shots after making nearly 63% against the SuperSonics in their first season-opening victory in eight years.
Bobby Simmons, who missed only two of 15 shots in scoring a career-high 30 points Wednesday night, made one of six and scored four points Friday.
Corey Maggette missed 15 of 20 shots and revealed afterward that he was suffering from back spasms after taking a hard fall in the opener.
“I don’t want to make any excuses, but that was part of it tonight,” said Maggette, who opted not to sit out because the Clippers already were short-handed without projected starters Chris Kaman and Kerry Kittles, who are on the injured list. “I’m trying to run on it and stay in there because my team needs me. It’s tough playing in pain, but I’ve just got to keep doing it.
“I don’t have the explosiveness right now. Hopefully, it will get better soon so that I can be able to jump and have the ability to explode like I want.
“Right now, I can’t.”
On the bright side, the Clippers got another monster game from a fill-in starter, Chris Wilcox, who made 12 of 17 shots, scored a career-high 27 points and took 10 rebounds. Elton Brand scored 17 points on eight-of-13 shooting.
But the Trail Blazers, in front of a sellout crowd of 19,818 in their home opener, controlled the game from the opening minutes, when Theo Ratliff established a pattern by blocking two Maggette shots during a game-opening 8-2 run.
Ratliff blocked nine shots in only 26 minutes, matching a franchise record he already shared with Bill Walton and Mychal Thompson.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 22 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Zach Randolph had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Derek Anderson made all three of his three-point shots and scored 16 points. Damon Stoudamire had 11 assists.
“We started the game off unlike our last game,” Dunleavy said. “I thought we settled for quick shots, and when we didn’t Ratliff did a great job of erasing. In the first half, he probably erased six buckets.”
Wednesday night’s rout of the SuperSonics had seemingly left Dunleavy little to fret about. The Clippers never trailed in the 114-84 victory at Staples Center, making 70.6% of their shots in the first quarter and 62.9% overall.
So, what worries a coach after his team plays so well?
“Not playing as well in the next game,” Dunleavy said before Friday’s game. “It was a great start for us, a game where we felt like we did the things we’ve talked about having to do: We took care of the basketball, we moved the ball well, we got open shots, we ran the floor hard....
“We limited the number of opportunities the other team had to come at us when our defense wasn’t set. When our defense was set, we were pretty good. And that’s what we’ve been trying to get across: If you defend and move the ball and we execute, it gives us a chance to really do good things.”
They did few only a few things well against the Trail Blazers, especially in the first half, when Dunleavy said their defense was “horrible.”