The Trail Blazers came alive in the second half but were beat down the stretch by the Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers to fall 107-101 Thursday night at Staples Center.
“I like the way we came back,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.” First half, we didn’t have much going on and we were able to claw back into the game in the third quarter. I felt like we didn’t sustain it offensively more than anything else. There was a stretch there where we didn’t score and that’s where they made their comeback.”
Portland is now 3-5 overall and 3-3 on the road this season. They have now lost three straight.
While the Trail Blazers looked far more engaged and did a much better job of executing their offense in the first half of Thursday night’s contest than they did Monday night versus Warriors in San Francisco, it still wasn’t at the level a team needs to compete on the road in the West. Portland turned the ball over nine times, logged just six assists on 16 field goals and shot ten fewer free throws in the first half alone, making what was already sure to be a tough night even tougher.
But with the Clippers shooting 38 percent from the field and going just 1-of-10 from three in the first half, Portland managed to go into the intermission with a manageable 47-40 halftime deficit.
After sticking close despite all odds in the first half, the Blazers, perhaps with some prodding from the coaching staff in the halftime locker room, became the aggressors in the third quarter.
The shift in energy from center Hassan Whiteside, who turned in an especially moribund first half, was especially noticeable. After tallying just two points in six rebounds in the first half, the 7-1 center put up a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds in the third quarter alone.
“I thought Hassan was terrific in the second half,” said Stotts. “That’s what we need from him. That’s the way we need him to play.”
CJ McCollum also shook off a tough 4-of-11 start in the first half to go 5-of-8 from the field for 14 third-quarter points. Behind Whiteside and McCollum, Portland outscored LA 36-23 in the quarter to take a 76-70 lead into the fourth.
Then it was Anfernee Simons’ turn to take over. With most of the starters on the bench to start the fourth, the second-year guard out of IMG Academy went to work, scoring the first 12 points of the quarter for Portland. He’s eventually score 16 of his season-high 17 points in the final 12 minutes.
But both Lillard and McCollum, usually relied upon to close out tough games, would go scoreless in the fourth, while the Clippers got 18 points from Leonard and 10 from Montreal Harrell. After leading 93-88, the Blazers were outscored 19-8 in the final four minutes to come away with the loss.
“Just not getting it done, not finishing games,” said Lillard. “Tonight, we was up against it regardless, against a really good team on the road. And once again, in a position to win and came up short. We’ve got to keep on grinding, keep going. Hard times come, that’s the NBA season. It’s the teams that can stay mentally strong, stay together, keep on pushing through it that come out on top.”
Both Lillard and McCollum finished with 22 points on 9-of-23 shooting. Whiteside finish with 17 points and 19 rebounds to go with two blocks, an assist and a steal in 27 minutes. Simons finished with 17 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Four Clippers finished din double figures led by a game-high 27 points on 9-of-23 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. Lou Williams finished with 26 points off the bench thanks in large part to 11 made free throws, just one less than the Blazers had as a team.
Next up, the Blazers return to Portland with hopes of breaking their current losing streak while also earning their first win at home this season on the second night of a back-to-back versus a Brooklyn Nets team that hasn’t played since Monday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.