Five takeaways from the Clippers’ 115-95 victory over Portland in their playoff opener

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.”

The Trail Blazers tried a variety of defenders on Griffin, starting the game with Maurice Harkless and switching to Al-Farouq Aminu after Harkless picked up two fouls 3 1/2 minutes into the game. Nothing really worked. “He just kind of bulldozed his way to the rim and it’s tough with a guy that’s athletic and strong like him,” Portland guard Damian Lillard said. “If you get too physical then it’s a foul because he’s spinning in there and jumping in the middle with the spin. It’s tough to defend. So when he’s playing a physical game and if you get too physical you know he’s at the free-throw line....” Griffin did plenty of that, taking 12 free throws and making nine.

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.

4. The Clippers won the all-important rebounding battle. Portland had outrebounded the Clippers by 13 in the regular-season series and twice snagged 17 offensive rebounds, but those trends didn’t hold up Sunday. The Clippers won the rebounding battle, 48-40, and even grabbed one more offensive rebound than the Trail Blazers. Griffin and Jordan were a big part of the reversal, each collecting 12 rebounds. “It was a big point of emphasis, and it still will be,” Griffin said of the rebounding. “They’re a great rebounding team. Ed Davis alone is averaging like five or six offensive rebounds against us. So making sure we keep those guys off the glass is a big thing. They crash every time and they play so hard you always have to account for them.”

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.”


Twitter: @latbbolch

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