It’s fitting that after a week of pre-Summer heat in Portland, the Blazers will be playing their first home playoff game under today’s grey clouds. Gone from the glitz of Los Angeles, back into the cool embrace of the Moda Center.
After dropping the first two games in the series, tonight is it. Lose and that will just about do it—no basketball team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win, and despite the magic of this season, these Blazers aren’t the team to make history. The Clippers are just too good to lose four straight.
So the Blazers need a win in the worst way. After losing the first two games by an average of 20.5 points, that’s not going to be an easy feat. In times like these it’s important to remember the powerful words of noted poet laureate JJ Redick. Despite this weight on their shoulders, the Blazers will need to move forth with the strength of a condor, the courage of a warrior, and the commitment of an American soldier.
Here’s the thing: the Blazers actually had a great gameplan in Game Two. That was a winnable game. The Clippers offense stagnated until the fourth quarter, and the Blazers were able to get some decent open shots. Unfortunately, those open shots went again to Al-Farouq Aminu behind the arc.
Coach Stotts did a masterful job of creating space for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Backdoor cuts behind aggressive defenders, coming off double screens—the looks were there, but neither player could sustain any sort of run with a few positive possessions in a row. Dame especially kept finding himself in space and forcing his way to the basket, but he couldn’t draw a foul to save his life and DeAndre Jordan swallowed up most of his layup attempts.
Coming into tonight, the Blazers don’t need to tweak much. They just need to make shots, as simple as that sounds. They went 5/26 from deep as a team last game, with Dame, CJ, and Aminu going a combined 3/20. If they can get a few more of those triples to fall, that will open up the floor for the rest of the team, which will open up some better looks from deep, which get Portland’s offense back on track.
It only took two straight threes from Harkless last game for the Blazers to finally look like they weren’t stuck in mud. If Dame or CJ or Aminu can hit a couple, behind a raucous home crowd, watch out. Even though the Clippers have looked like the dominant team, the Blazers can get hot in a hurry. Make some outside shots, and this might just be a series yet.