Leave it to the Clippers to benefit from a clerical error. Their team should be so much more fun to watch than it is, but instead their games feel more like being stuck in bureaucratic hell. The whining, the flopping, the constant complaining to the refs, and the Hack-a-DeAndre fouls are less basketball and more a trip to the DMV.
So when it was announced that CJ McCollum would miss the game entirely because of some messed up paperwork, it made sense. Just another reason to rage against the Clippers machine. The Blazers accidentally missed CJ on their active roster, tried to correct their mistake, and the Clippers protested and won. McCollum, despite dressing for the game, wouldn’t be allowed to enter.
Allen Crabbe got the start. McCollum and Luis Montero had to go back to the locker room in the middle of the first quarter to change outfits—Montero into a jersey, McCollum into street clothes. From the outset this game was anything but normal, so of course it started with Noah Vonleh trying to throw a lob pass to Mason Plumlee for an alley-oop but missing and banking it home instead.
The Clippers ran away with things early. They jumbled up Portland’s offense to the point where running a simple pick and roll was a struggle. When Damian Lillard was forced to sit in the second quarter—if he didn’t get popped in the nose dude might have played all forty-eight—things just collapsed.
Believe or not, but the island of misfit lineups featuring Tim Frazier, Gerald Henderson, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Ed Davis couldn’t get anything going offensively. At one point Meyers was at the elbow and pointing all over the court, trying to get everyone into the proper set like some kind of Safety Town deputy. Nobody went where he wanted and the possession went nowhere.
Shortly thereafter Chris Paul grabbed Frazier’s arm and fell (flopped) down, and somehow Frazier ended up with the foul called against him. Paul literally grabbed Frazier’s arm and drew a foul. The Clippers were in complete control, and it’s no surprise the Blazers limped into halftime with a 23-point deficit.
It’s also no surprise that despite the early deficit the Blazers made it a game. This team does nothing if not try and dig themselves out of massive holes.
Plumlee kept things close in the third with possibly his best offensive quarter of the year. He was the only Portland player able to create his own shot—shout out to baby jump hooks!—and ended up with a season-high nineteen points for his troubles.
Then, as often is the case, the Blazers made a nice little rally late and chipped the Clipper lead down to single digits. Lillard, who still hasn’t looked quite right after returning from his plantar fasciitis, sunk a deep three. Gerald Henderson benefited from an offensive goaltending call on Cole Aldrich when Aldrich accidentally grabbed the net on a putback attempt. A boneheaded transition foul from Wesley Johnson led to a potential three-point play for Harkless to cut the lead to just five.
But Harkless missed the free throw, Johnson hit a three on the next possession, and despite some improved defense the Blazers just couldn’t capitalize. Too little, too late, especially against a veteran team like the Clippers. Paul Pierce hit a clutch three to seal it, because that's what he do.
Chris Paul was masterful (19 assists!!!!), Austin Rivers couldn’t miss, JJ Redick hit about fifteen clutch shots late, and the Blazers ultimately fell 109-98. Those 21 points a night from CJ sure would have come in handy.