Clippers guard Chris Paul is fouled by Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum during a battle for the ball in the fourth quarter of Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers center Cole Aldrich looks to pass to a teammate before Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard can steal the ball during the fourth quarter of Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford makes despite the defensive effort of Trail Blazers guard Allen Crabbe during Game 1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan is fouled by Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee while attempting a shot during Game 1 on Sunday.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunks over Blazers center Mason Plumlee, who is called for a foul on the play in Game 1 on Sunday night at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan blocks a layup by Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard during the first half of Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs on Sunday.(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)
Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and center DeAndre Jordan, right, try to steal the ball from fallen Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard during the first half of Game 1.(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
Clippers guard Chris Paul is pressured by Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard on a drive during the first half of Game 1 on Sunday.(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
Clippers forward Wesley Johnson blocks a shot by Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard during the first half of Game 1.(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)
The Clippers’ playoff push got off to a great start with a 115-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night at Staples Center in the opener of their first-round series. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Blake Griffin was back to being the guy who jumped over a Kia. Only this time it was Portland’s Mason Plumlee in his way and Griffin cleared him with ease on three occasions. Griffin mostly operated around the basket while making five of 10 shots and finishing with 19 points in his sixth game back from the hand and quadriceps injuries that had sidelined him for more than three months. “As far as how I feel around the basket and exploding and all that,” Griffin said, “I felt fine. But there are just always things to improve upon as far as timing and making up for lost time.”
2. Portland’s guards mostly struggled. Lillard was solid with 21 points and eight assists but fellow guard C.J. McCollum was a nonfactor with nine points on three-for-11 shooting. The Clippers’ plan of double-teaming the guards whenever they had the ball and making them find another option was a big success. “They were physical, they were ready every time, they communicated,” Lillard said. “Usually the things we get to with myself and C.J., ball screen actions, flairs and pin-downs, they were pretty disruptive.” Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute was particularly bothersome for McCollum with his length and quick feet. “He is a long guy, he is athletic, smart and he did a good job,” McCollum said.
3. DeAndre Jordan was hacked but not hacked off. Portland Coach Terry Stotts fulfilled his pledge to intentionally foul Jordan late in the first quarter with his team trailing by three points. It didn’t go so well. Jordan made both free throws and Clippers Coach Doc Rivers immediately had Jamal Crawford foul Portland’s Ed Davis away from the ball so that he could take Jordan out of the game. Stotts went back to the strategy with a little more than five minutes left in the game and his team well on its way to defeat. Again, the strategy didn’t work. Even though Jordan missed seven of 12 attempts in the fourth quarter (and 10 of 18 overall), Portland trailed by one more point when it stopped the tactic than it had when it started. Nevertheless, Jordan didn’t seem to mind continually stepping to the free-throw line. “Oh, it was fine,” Jordan said. “My thing is my teammates give me confidence when I’m up there, and I’m comfortable up there. Just if I make both, miss both, whatever it is, we’re going to come down and try to get a stop. When we get stops, the strategy doesn’t really work as much, so we’ve got to get stops whenever I miss.” The Clippers mostly did just that.
5. J.J. Redick looked fine in his return from a bruised left heel. He had not played since Tuesday after landing awkwardly against the Memphis Grizzlies, but Redick’s accuracy did not suffer in his first game back. He made eight of 12 shots and finished with 17 points. Redick said the Clippers found another gear late in the second quarter that helped them find some separation in a taut game. “Our intensity went up a notch,” Redick said. “That first quarter we had a bit of nervous energy and then all of a sudden we said, ‘This is the playoffs’ and it just went up in terms of loose balls, getting stops, getting defensive rebounds, all that stuff. The last three minutes of the half, I think they had two points. We got an eight-point lead and that just carried over to the second half.”