There was no suspense for Chris Paul or Blake Griffin by the time they arrived in a hotel ballroom Sunday morning to watch footage of the Clippers’ game from the previous day.
They had already relived every missed shot, wayward free throw and rebound that went to the Portland Trail Blazers’ Mason Plumlee by viewing the game on their own. Twice.
Of course, the predictability of what they were watching didn’t make it any easier to digest once they gathered with their teammates for a more formal viewing.
“It was a pretty awful film session,” Griffin said.
Siskel and Ebert would have given the Clippers two thumbs down for the way things devolved over the final 3 minutes 15 seconds of their 96-88 loss Saturday night at the Moda Center in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.
A recap of their final possessions: Griffin missed a three-pointer and committed a turnover, DeAndre Jordan missed five of six free throws, J.J. Redick missed two three-pointers and Paul missed three shots (including one that was blocked) before Jamal Crawford made a layup for the Clippers’ only basket during the Trail Blazers’ game-ending 15-3 run.
Knowing that they almost won despite fumbling away so many opportunities didn’t soothe the Clippers a day later.
“It’s more upsetting, disappointing, embarrassing that you came out and played that way,” Griffin said, “knowing what’s on the line and knowing what type of environment we were going to be in.”
The vibe figures to be even more frantic in Game 4 on Monday night. Another Portland victory and a series the Clippers lead, two games to one, will be tied heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Wednesday.
The talking points after the Clippers’ film session didn’t deviate much from those on the previous day. Their ball movement regressed from the first two games and they were too soft around the basket. Portland’s Maurice Harkless muscled in for a putback dunk in the final minute and Plumlee was an all-around force with 21 rebounds, nine assists and six points.
“They pushed and we didn’t really push back,” Griffin said after the game. “You have to be the team that initiates it. You can’t be the team that responds to it. They did everything, I felt like, they wanted to do.”
The Clippers struggled to make shots on an unprecedented scale. They missed 15 of 18 three-pointers for a season-worst 16.7% and predictably had trouble at the free-throw line, making 13 of 23 attempts. Jordan was the primary culprit on the latter front, making three of 10 free throws.
There was also the much-discussed three-pointer Griffin took from the corner with 3:15 left and the Clippers holding a one-point lead. It was only the 19th three-pointer Griffin had taken all season and came at what seemed an odd time for him to test the range on his jumper after having recently been sidelined for more than three months.
“I mean, we could have made an extra pass, for sure,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “Having said that, I want my guys when they’re open to either shoot the ball, drive the ball, pass the ball. What I don’t want them to do is hold the ball. I believe in giving guys confidence — go play. We’ll take the shot. It happened.”
Redick’s bruised left heel may not have bothered him as much as the absence of any sort of rhythm during a two-for-10 shooting performance. He had not practiced the previous two days while trying to heal the heel he had injured nearly two weeks ago.
“It’s fine,” Redick said abruptly when asked about the heel.
Paul’s game-watching habit has become a bedtime routine. He screens victories and losses with equal fervor.
“It’s very emotional,” Paul said, “but it’s all in trying to get better and learning and seeing.”
Sometimes, like the early morning hours Sunday in his hotel room, seeing is disbelieving.