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Clippers

So, who are these Trail Blazers, and where’d the Clippers go?

So, who are these Trail Blazers, and where’d the Clippers go?

Clippers guard J.J. Redick, center, shoots in front of Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee, left, and guard C.J. McCollum, right, during the first half of Game 3 of the Western Conference playoff on Saturday.

(Craig Mitchelldyer / AP)

The Clippers couldn’t stop Mason Plumlee on Saturday, interrupting their playoff run with two important questions.

Who is Mason Plumlee? And if the Clippers can’t control him, how could they possibly stop anyone on the Golden State Warriors in a possible playoff matchup?

Rarely does a player with so few points (six) affect a game the way this Portland Trail Blazer did Saturday, taking more rebounds (21) than DeAndre Jordan and handing out as many assists (nine) as Chris Paul.

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Plumlee is a center, a lightly regarded one at that.

He and Portland stuck it to the Clippers with a 96-88 victory that sliced the Clippers’ lead to 2-1 in the first-round playoff series.

“Awkward stat line. The guys on the bench were giving me a hard time for not getting 10 points,” a grinning Plumlee said after the game, adding that this was his first “podium game.”

“Good thing I wore a tie,” he said.

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A Los Angeles team losing in Portland is nothing new. Phil Jackson always hated playing here when he coached the Lakers.

He would blame the weather, eternally more dreary than the sunshine left behind in Los Angeles. Or he questioned the team’s pregame visits to the Nike VIP store in nearby Beaverton — a distraction, he liked to say, as players met with reps from the shoe company and immersed themselves in all the latest sports apparel.

The Lakers rarely seemed ready to play here, going 15-32 from the time Kobe Bryant was a rookie to the time he retired.

The Clippers continued that tradition in Game 3, looking nothing like the team that won the first two games by 21 and 20 points.

The city of Portland has a way of doing that to you.

Jordan missed five of six free throws in the final three minutes. Blake Griffin coughed up the ball late with the Clippers down three, his pass appearing to be deflected by, here’s that name again, Plumlee. Maurice Harkless, another lightly regarded Portland frontcourt player, dunked in a rebound to really put pressure on the players.

Who are these guys? And where did the Clippers go?

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Forget about trying to get past the second round for the first time ever. The Clippers had better be more careful about this round.

The anti-Clippers vibe was evident as “Beat L.A.” chants rained down Saturday, a slightly curious oddity because they’re usually reserved for the other Los Angeles team.

Like Clippers fans, Portland followers are starving for championship success.

There’s been one championship for the Trail Blazers. It’s still talked about here in reverent tones by those who remember shaggy-haired Bill Walton’s most-valuable-player effort in 1977.

That team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers.

The parallel Saturday, on a much smaller scale, was the hope that these Blazers could do the same against the apparently superior Clippers. The first two games didn’t exactly predict Saturday success for Portland.

And yet Clippers Coach Doc Rivers was appropriately reverential before Saturday’s game.

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“They’ve had an amazing tradition here for, shoot, before I even got in the league, which makes it a long time ago,” he said. “It’s just been pretty impressive that through the good years and some of their bad years, the fans keep showing up. The true definition of a fan is a [Chicago] Cub fan, when you think about it.”

Trail Blazers followers freaked out when Lillard shot 33% over the first two games. No need.

He scored 32 points in Game 3 on 10-for-20 shooting.

“I always think it’s a little funny when he has a couple bad shooting games, people start to question things,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said.

Backcourt mate C.J. McCollum added 27 points a day after being selected the NBA’s most improved player.

That’s the Trail Blazers — two great guards and someone named Plumlee.

Road victories rarely come easily in Portland. If the Clippers didn’t know by tipoff Saturday, they learned quickly. A mundane series became a more interesting one.

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Facebook and Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan


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