Trail Blazers fend off rally, top Clippers 131-127
Clippers guard Avery Bradley defends Trailblazers guard Damian Lillard in the 1st quarter at the Staples Center on Monday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers player Tyron Wallace is fouled by the Trailblazers’ C.J. McCollum while driving to the basket in the 2nd quarter at the Staples Center on Monday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers player Montrezl Harrell is forced into a jump ball by Zach Collins while driving to the basket in the 2nd quarter against the Trailblazers at the Staples Center on Monday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers player Montrezl Harrell goes to the basket against the Trailblazers’ Jusuf Nurkic in the 2nd quarter at the Staples Center on Monday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers player Montrezl Harrell grabs a rebound from Evan Turner in the 2nd quarter against the Trailblazers at the Staples Center on Monday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers player Danilo Gallinari has his shot blocked by the Trailblazers’ C.J. McCollum at the Staples Center on Monday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander knocks the ball away from the Trailblazers’ Maurice Harkless in the 2nd quarter at the Staples Center on Monday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers player Danilo Gallinari drives on the Trailblazers’ C.J. McCollum at the Staples Center on Monday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Clippers’ slide continues.
Los Angeles fought back from an 18-point deficit Monday against Portland until the team trailed by just one point in the final minute.
But the breakthrough the Clippers so badly need remained out of reach.
The Clippers’ 131-127 loss to the Trail Blazers at Staples Center was their fourth consecutive loss and their seventh defeat in their last nine games.
Rocky play by the Clippers’ starters spoiled a career-high 39 points from forward Tobias Harris and a career-high 24 from rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with a bounce-back night from the team’s bench.
Patrick Beverley had 10 points and 11 assists off the bench and Montrezl Harrell added 15 points before he was ejected in the fourth quarter.
“Our bench did a good job of fighting back,” Harris said. “Just a couple of game-changing-type things that happened and we weren’t able to get the win, so, frustrated.”
Coach Doc Rivers walked into his postgame press conference later than usual and joked it was because he had been on the phone with the league office complaining about the officiating.
Later, he said he “doubted” he would indeed call, but the Clippers were hot much of the second half over no-calls they felt they’d earned.
The Clippers (17-13) were down three points in the fourth quarter when Danilo Gallinari attempted to draw a foul on a three- pointer.
He appeared to have his non-shooting arm hooked by Al-Farouq Aminu but didn’t get a call. On the other end, Damian Lillard scored a layup for a five-point lead.
Monday began a homestand that was a month in the making, but the comfort of home didn’t mean much. No matter where they’ve played recently, the Clippers have continued to struggle defensively and their starters again put them in a hole.
Rivers was bullish on his team’s energy Saturday in Oklahoma City and his review of the game afterward only validated that feeling. But his team trailed after the first quarter Monday for the seventh consecutive game.
From there, the Clippers had to play catch-up. It almost worked.
“The game was lost in the first quarter and in the third quarter,” Rivers said. “We started out the game poorly in both halves and then we fought back.”
Gallinari finished with 22 points. Portland was led by Lillard’s 39 points and CJ McCollum’s 27. They’d averaged 48 points combined in the teams’ first two meetings this season but tore through the Clippers time and again, primarily the defense of Avery Bradley, who had zero points, zero assists and recorded a plus-minus of minus-22.
McCollum was slippery in the first half, losing multiple defenders while running around screens on cuts toward the rim. Lillard was devastating in the third quarter, scoring 22 points.
The absence of big man Jusuf Nurkic was an undeniable factor in Los Angeles’ second-half comeback to win in Portland on Nov. 25, and the Clippers could only wish he would have missed a half Monday. Nurkic had scored 17 points midway through the third quarter when Rivers, in an unusual move, used a third center in the rotation by playing Boban Marjanovic in place of Marcin Gortat.
The Trail Blazers responded on offense by keeping Marjanovic’s man near the perimeter and forcing him to defend the pick-and-roll away from his comfort zone near the hoop.
“I thought the Bobi stretch wasn’t great for us,” Rivers said.
After two free throws from Harris with 45 seconds left, the Clippers trailed 125-123, but McCollum made a step-back jumper over Gallinari with 30 seconds remaining. Gallinari missed a three-pointer, saw the offensive rebound carom back to him, and made his second try to trim the deficit to one point.
They couldn’t close out the rally from there.
Rivers said morale hasn’t been chipped away during this losing streak, saying they were “in a great place, we’re in a fantastic place.”
“We just want to be in a winning place,” he added. “That’s very important.”
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