In the Los Angeles Clippers’ first showing without freshly traded star forward Blake Griffin, the shorthanded Clippers lost 104-96 to the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I thought we played hard, we made a run at the end, it was a tough night,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
News broke that the Clippers traded former number one NBA draft pick (2009) Griffin to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for forward Tobias Harris, guard Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic and a 2018 first round draft pick.
“”It was definitely tough to see him go,” said DeAndre Jordan.
Griffin, a five-time All-Star who spent the past seven seasons with the Clippers resigned a five-year contract with the Clippers this past offseason valued at $171 million. With the curtain closed on Griffin, the show went on inside Staples Center Tuesday night as the Clippers were defeated by the Trail Blazers.
“I know how that can be disruptive for the team,” said Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “For us it was a player missing a game.”
Trail Blazers came out to a 6-0 run broken up by a pair of free throws by Danilo Gallinari, who returned to the Clippers’ starting lineup after having missed the previous 25 games. The Clippers managed to keep it close as the Trail Blazers led 30-27 to end the first quarter with a 14 point effort by Damian Lillard.
Through the second quarter the Clippers made defensive adjustments on Lillard, started to trap him and held the All-Star point guard to just two points. Meanwhile, Lou Williams racked up 11 second quarter points for the Clippers.
“We needed Lou [Williams] to be like Superman today and he had one of those nights where he couldn’t make shots.”
Williams was five for 26 from field goal range, yet still contributed 20 points off the bench. At halftime, the Clippers trailed 56-51 as the Trail Blazers shot just 37 percent.
“You have to find way to win the game when you’re not shooting the ball well,” said Stotts.
The Trail Blazers won the game through their defensive performance. Jusuf Nurkic had 14 points and 18 rebounds for the Blazers. With Nurkic’s performance the team was able to notch 18 offensive rebounds.
“I tried to impact the game in a different way,” said Nurkic who had 7 of those offensive boards.
“This has been like a two-year thing with Portland,” Rivers said. “When they win the offensive rebound battle, they win the game.
It was in the third quarter that Trail Blazers pulled away outscoring the Clippers 30-16. Lillard had 10 points in the third quarter.
“They were trying to trap me,” said Lillard, who scored 28 points, 7 assists and 3 steals. “From that point, I just started trying to manipulate that and just trusting the right guy to make the shot.”
CJ McCollum added 16 points to the Trail Blazers win.
A three-point play by Williams put the Clippers within six points with two minutes of the fourth quarter, 100-94. The Clippers were restricted to just one field goal in the last two minutes of the contest.