Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Los Angeles Clippers.
Stuffed full of ham, eyes glassy from watching too much TV, burnt out from talking to family—I can hardly handle sitting upright after yesterday, so I can’t imagine what playing a basketball game would be like. It’s a Christmas miracle that these guys are even taking the floor.
For the Clippers especially, as this is their second night of a back to back. They were part of the finale in yesterday’s “Hate Your Family, Watch Terrible Basketball Games” marathon that the NBA threw. It’s a great tradition, up there with drinking too much eggnog, getting hit on by creepy Uncle Joe, and “going to bed early,” which is just code for escaping to your room to play Candy Crush in peace for a few hours. I love the holidays.
Blake Griffin was gifted an ejection in yesterday’s game, a fine present to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. The league immediately called take-backs today, claiming that the ejection was the wrong gift and they’d instead be getting him a gift card to Best Buy. How nice.
Expect Blake to come out early and aggressive, both because of the bogus ejection and the chance to go head to head with LaMarcus Aldridge. Expect me to come out slow and sluggish because of the excessive holiday cheer.
Tonight’s contest is nationally televised, so shoutout to the “7:30” start time that is actually 8pm, inexplicably longer timeouts, and a bonus ten minutes of halftime. The national TV thing might be good for Aldridge, though—the last time the Blazers were on TNT he went off for 31 points and 25 rebounds.
The Clippers are the next test for this Portland team to once again prove they are legit. Despite owning the best record in the Western Conference, Zach Lowe recently gave them the fourth spot in his West power rankings, a spot back of Los Angeles. Though probably the right call—the Clips are a top four offense and top seven defense despite dealing with a few injuries—I wouldn’t be surprised if Portland has a little more motivation to try and turn this one into a blowout.
The Blazers have had a few days off, and hopefully they used that time to try and rediscover their defensive spark. The offense is still tops in the league by quite a large margin, but the defense has been slipping as of late—they now rank 23rd in the league. For a team that has serious hopes of a playoff run, they’ll need to get that figure up closer to league average to have a chance.
There was early talk that Aldridge might miss tonight's contest because he got his wisdom teeth pulled, but it looks like he'll give it a go. Good. Nobody wants to see Meyers Leonard start a professional basketball game.
11:46 - The Clippers go right to Chris Paul in the post for their first possession. A statement from the best point guard in the league? No doubt. 2-0 Clippers.
9:12 - No signs of an ice cream only diet from Aldridge. He sank his first jumper over Griffin, which elicited some pretty loud cheers from the crowd. The Moda Center faithful know who the best power forward in the league is, Kia commercials be damned. 4-4 Tie.
8:02 - Two quick fouls on Griffin, the second coming on an offensive foul as Nicolas Batum fought over a moving screen. That is big, as Blake will now have to sit for the rest of the first half. Antawn Jamison is in, and I really wasn't sure that he was still alive. 6-4 Clippers.
5:57 - Aldridge goes right to work on Jamison, turing him around in the post with a couple of nifty pivots. Easy basket. Keep doing that. 11-8 Blazers.
3:53 - The Clippers have moved DeAndre Jordan over to LaMarcus on defense and so far it has been working—his length has given Alrdige a little trouble on his turnaround jumper. The Blazers are getting the bulk of their points from Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, both of whom have been eschewing the three-point line for mid-range jumpers early. 13-10 Blazers.
2:34 - So much for the mid-range action. Matthews just hit a three, his second on the night, to open up a bit of a lead for Portland. Los Angeles needs time after that open look. The Clippers must have a holiday hangover, hitting a dismal 22% of their field goals in the early going. 16-10 Blazers.
1:30 - Joel Freeland has a bit of range on the baseline. He just knocked down a twelve-foot jumper off of a Portland offensive rebound. That will earn him more playing time. 18-12 Blazers.
0:27 - Offensive rebound city. Batum grabbed one, Freeland grabbed one, and Aldridge grabbed one all on the same possession. Aldridge threw up a miss, Portland's fourth in a row, but Matt Barnes juggled the rebound—he was all alone with nobody around—out of bounds. 18-14 Blazers.
0:00 - Ryan Hollins rejected Lillard at the rim to end the first quarter, a great defensive stand from the man who just a night ago was getting berated by Doc Rivers. The Blazers lead after an ugly quarter of basketball. 19-14 Blazers.
11:09 - Despite Meyers Leonard missing a wide open jumper and giving up a basket at the rim to 6'7" Matt Barnes, Stotts decides to keep him in while bringing Robin Lopez back. Twin towers time. 19-16 Blazers.
9:54 - Somehow this lineup of two PGs (Lillard and Mo Willams) and two centers (Lopez and Leonard) is working. That's a 5-0 run for the home team and the Clippers need time. 24-16 Blazers.
8:49 - Dorell Wright just threw up a left-handed circus shot that somehow went in. I didn't know he had two-point range—I thought he could only hit from distance. 28-17 Blazers.
7:14 - Mo Williams just broke this one open with back to back threes for the Blazers. Portland is making a nice run here and it is mostly with their starters getting rest. Impressive. Almost as impressive as Meyers Leonard's six (!!) rebounds here in the early going. 34-22 Blazers.
5:44 - The Clippers answer Portland's run with a 9-0 run of their own. I blame the twenty-second timeout that took eight minutes to complete. 34-31 Blazers.
4:36 - It's a game of runs, apparently. That's six straight points for LaMarcus Aldridge, who is showing no signs of being hampered at all by his missing teeth. And, guess what? We have another timeout. Thanks, TNT. 40-31 Blazers.
3:12 - Wesley Matthews should probably only shoot threes while fading away. There is no way that's a good shot, and yet he keeps hitting those step-backs. Hey, Neil Young, Matthews thinks it is better to fade away than burn out. 45-35 Blazers.
1:31 - Chris Paul is good at the basketballs. He just hit a twenty-foot jumper in the midst of three Blazers. 45-39 Blazers.
0:29 - This timeout situation is getting ridiculous. Another one for the Blazers. It was called a twenty-second timeout, changed to a full, and then changed back to a twenty-second. The whistle blew at least twenty times, and for some reason Lillard picked up a technical foul in the process. He must have been mad about all these stoppages in play. 47-43 Blazers.
0:00 - The Blazers ran their worst out of a timeout play this year, culminating in a hot potato three from Matthews after Joel Freeland couldn't find anyone in the high post to pass it to. The Clippers—okay, Chris Paul, the game's high scorer—drained a three as the clock expired. The Blazers hang to a slight lead as they enter the sure to be loooong halftime break. 47-46 Blazers.
11:20 - The Clippers just hit the Blazers with a bit of their own game, offensive rebounding the hell out of a Blake Griffin miss which resulted in a three-point play for Blake on a put back. Some early hustle for the team on a second night of a back to back. 49-49 Tie.
11:03 - A wild swing here early. Aldridge was fouled an hit the shot on continuation. Initially it was called a foul on the floor, but the ref crew conferred and changed the call to give Aldridge the and one. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was so upset at the call he picked up a technical foul, resulting in a four point swing here early. 53-49 Blazers.
10:00 - Back to back threes for the Blazers with both Lillard and Matthews hitting from distance. The Clippers need time. 59-51 Blazers.
9:21 - Aldridge forced to sit after picking up his fourth foul of the game. It's Meyers Leonard time. Portland is doomed. 61-51 Blazers.
7:43 - Uh oh, Chris Paul is going off. He's got eight early third quarter points and is straight getting whatever he wants. Portland is leaking points with LaMarcus on the bench and Terry Stotts needs time. 61-59 Blazers.
7:21 - Meyers Leonard attempted a three. Oh, god, it's the apocalypse. 61-59 Blazers.
6:40 - In case anyone is wondering, Leonard is not Roy Hibbert. He is never going to get that verticality call. DeAndre Jordan just tried to put him on a poster, and Leonard did a good jump of contesting straight up but still got the call against him. Hey, at least Jordan missed both freebies. 63-59 Blazers.
5:00 - I just want to live in Meyers Leonard's world forever. Matthews just tried to hit him with a bounce pass on a screen and roll, and Meyers just after the pass was tossed like it was going to be a lob. That is something I would do in a pickup game, and I love it. 71-66 Blazers.
2:43 - Aldridge comes back into the game with four fouls and immediately hits a mid-range jumper. I miss Meyers already. 74-68 Blazers.
0:00 - A sloppy end to the quarter, as neither team is able to do much else other than turn the ball over. If those turnovers were the edible kind that I had at Christmas yesterday, this game would be much more enjoyable. And delicious. 76-73 Blazers.
10:39 - Mo Williams had the ball beyond the arc but didn't realize the shot clock was about to expire. No problem—he drained it right in Willie Green's face as the buzzer sounded. Keep those three points in mind when this game is over, as the Blazers were lucky to get points on that possession. 81-75 Blazers.
9:19 - More threes for the Blazers, this time from Dorell Wright in the corner! Let's see if the Blazers can sustain this lead or if Chris Paul decides to play the Grinch once again. We'll find out, right after this ten minute timeout. 84-75 Blazers.
8:31 - Blake Griffin put back dunk, audible groans from the crowd. This has been a pretty highlight free festival for Lob City. That was one of the few times I can remember hearing the crowd react in awe. 84-77 Blazers.
7:37 - If you like mid-range jumpers more than dunks, have I got a game for you! LaMarcus just drained another jumper from the elbow, giving him twenty-three points on the night. 88-77 Blazers.
6:52 - Chris Paul just straight up elbowed Matthews in the face, no whistle. Matthews fell backwards because, you know, face punch, and Paul just calmly stepped into a three and hit it. The crowd is not happy with that one. 91-83 Blazers.
5:55 - So much for that lead. Timeout time, as the Clippers have stormed behind threes from Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, and Blake Griffin (!!!). That Paul play against Matthews was a punch in the face, literally and figuratively, and so far the Blazers aren't matching the physicality of Los Angeles. 91-88 Blazers.
4:52 - Another three from Jamal Crawford and this game is tied. The Clippers don't want to lose this one, and have stepped up the intensity here in the fourth. Paul isn't even letting Lillard get a shot off. This feel like a playoff game. 91-91 Tie.
2:53 - Woah, Batum. The Frenchman is getting a standing ovation as he just sent a Chris Paul layup into the fourth row. What a block. Too bad another timeout was called, as that was a serious momentum shift. Now the crowd is just kind of listless as opposed to amped. 95-93 Blazers.
2:06 - Blazers with a shot clock violation. That is...not a good play. The Clippers are able to capitalize on a Chris Paul layup, and he now has twenty-eight points on the night. Los Angeles is going to find a way to pull this one out. 95-95 Tie.
1:08 - Who else but Chris Paul? Two more for the point god and the Clippers now have the lead. 97-96 Clippers.
0:40 - Chris Paul is good. Too good. 32 points and 14 assists good. Four straight points for the face puncher and Los Angeles has the lead, firmly in the driver's seat. Timeout, Portland ball. 99-98 Clippers.
0:09 - Aldridge got stuffed at the rim on one end. Chris Paul drains a fadeaway jumper with Matthews in his face on the other. Dude is putting on an absolute show. Blazers are going to need some late game heroics, but unfortunately Paul isn't letting Lillard get a single look at the basket tonight. 101-98 Clippers.
0:05 - Batum three? BATUM THREE! Tie ball game folks. I'd be much more excited if there weren't five seconds left for Chris Paul to work with. 101-101 Tie.
0:00 - Well, Chris Paul is human. He had a great look over Batum and missed the fifteen foot jumper. Time. It's free basketball here at the Moda Center. 101-101 Tie.
3:32 - LaMarcus Aldridge with the huge sequence, getting a block on Griffin on one end then pickup up the basket and one. The foul was DeAndre Jordan's sixth and he's hitting the showers. The MVP chants are starting up. 104-103 Blazers.
1:05 - It's wild up in here. LaMarcus is doing his best to take this one home, getting the first five Portland points. On a seriously broken possession, Wesley Matthews ended up getting fouled on the floor in the corner. Two free throws later, and the Blazers have the lead. Baskets are being traded, and the Blazers are going to have to get a stop to be able to pull this one out. 108-107 Blazers.
0:26 - There's a stop! Griffin missed a chip-shot at the rim, and the Blazers were able to leak out into transition where Matt Barnes fouled Batum. Nicolas hit both freebies! 112-109 Blazers.
0:20 - A beautiful play for Griffin out of the timeout gets him an easy dunk. Lillard is fouled on the other end and calmly knocks down his free throws. 114-111 Blazers.
0:13 - Jamal Crawford was fouled on a drive to the basket. The normally stellar free throw shooter missed the first (!!) but hit the second. The 24 second shot clock is off and the Clippers are out of timeouts. It's going to come down to the charity stripe. 114-112 Blazers.
0:13 - Matt Barnes is done as well, picking up his sixth foul on the night. Matthews drains both free throws and it's a two possession game. 116-112 Blazers.
0:00 - Chris Paul missed badly on a three, and the Blazers secured the rebound. It's all over. Portland pulls out another victory, this time against a great Western Conference opponent.
FINAL: 116-112 Blazers. Despite a spectacular showing from Chris Paul, the Blazers once again reign victorious. Aldridge was the leading man, putting up 32 points and 10 rebounds. What a year. Portland will look to do it all over again on Saturday night against the Miami Heat.