The Los Angeles Clippers traveled north Thursday night to take on the Portland Trail Blazers in their first game away from Staples Center of the 2012-13 season. The road was kind to them as they came out on top in a 103-90 victory.
Both teams came out hot, as we saw buckets being traded back and forth early in the game. Unfortunately for Portland, Los Angeles was the first team to establish momentum and they took a 29-22 lead into the second quarter.
At one point, the Clippers were on a 22-2 run in the first half, and the Blazers even resorted to the Hack-A-Shaq strategy on DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin to slow L.A.’s momentum. But that only works when you can return the favor and score on your end of the floor.
Late in the third quarter, the Blazers began a comeback that saw them shrink a 25-point deficit down to just 10 points. The team scored 32 points in the period, which made it just a six-point game heading into the final quarter.
The fourth period was exciting enough to keep fans in the building, but the Blazers seemingly spent too much energy in their comeback and were unable to dominate late like they did earlier in the second half.
The Clippers have been guilty this season of playing both up and down to the level of their competition, but this time around they took care of business, and they’ve improved their record to 4-2 on the season.
Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles: A
Chris Paul played an extremely efficient game and it started right out of the gate with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first quarter. He would go on to score 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
The point guard matchup was one of the more highly anticipated battles coming into this game, and Paul showed why he is the perennial All-Star in his eighth year in the league.
His ability to keep his dribble is among his best qualities as a point guard, and he put that skill on display as he weaved in and out of the Trail Blazers' defense all game long.
Damian Lillard, PG, Portland: B
Damian Lillard has started off his career in historic fashion, and while fans across the league have surely heard his name time and time again, this was the first game where a national audience had a chance to see what all the hype was truly about.
The young point guard showed viewers why he’s earned such praise early in the year. He put his passing ability on display in the first half, as well as his ability to slow down the game when things began to move at a frantic pace. He also showed he can hit shots from extremely deep.
However, Lillard also proved that he is just a rookie in his defensive deficiencies and willingness to take tough shots. It wasn’t a perfect game by Lillard, but it shows both believers and nonbelievers that he can produce at just age 22, making you wonder just how good he can actually be.
Willie Green, SG, Los Angeles: C
Willie Green has been overshadowed by the Clipper stars so far this season, and Thursday night proved to be no exception. His seven points aren't likely to be remembered by most casual fans, and his 19 minutes were the fewest of any Los Angeles starter.
From an efficiency standpoint, Green was actually quite good. He shot 3-of-6 from the field and he finished 1-of-2 from the three-point line.
Green isn't likely to stand out much this season, so as long as he's not making the mistakes that cost L.A. games, he's filling his role nicely.
Wesley Matthews, SG, Portland: C-
The Rose Garden crowd was taken out of the game early, but when the team began to make their second-half comeback, it was Wesley Matthews who sparked the run with his energy and aggression on both ends of the floor.
In typical Matthews fashion, the 2-guard was diving on the ground, poking the ball away from opponents and urging his team to run fast breaks any chance they got.
Unfortunately for Matthews, his 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting wasn’t enough to steal one from L.A., and he’ll have to hope for a better offensive performance when the team takes on the San Antonio Spurs come Saturday.
Caron Butler, S, Los Angeles: F
Caron Butler rarely made his impact felt in this one as he scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in 21 minutes.
Coming into the game, Butler was averaging 11.8 points, and he was shooting at least 50 percent from both the field and the three-point line. He wasn't able to find that efficiency this time around, and as a result, he remained invisible for much of the contest.
Nicolas Batum, SF, Portland: B+
Nicolas Batum has been the epitome of inconsistency throughout his young NBA career, and that sentiment was once again brought to surface against the Los Angeles Clippers.
There were times throughout the game where his shot was falling and his willingness to attack was apparent, but it wasn’t on display the whole game. His 3-of-10 shooting from behind the arc was disappointing, but his team-high 23 points was what Portland needed to stay in this contest.
The area where Batum made the biggest impact was on the defensive end of the floor. Damian Lillard showed throughout the contest that he simply couldn’t contain Chris Paul, so when head coach Terry Stotts put Batum and his incredible wingspan on the point guard, it made a world of difference.
Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles: C-
Blake Griffin was active on the boards against the Trail Blazers, but his offense was absent throughout the entire 48-minute contest.
The big man finished with just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, and with the exception of his one alley-oop finish in transition, the crowd didn't get what they were expecting out of one of the most exciting players in the game today.
Not only was Griffin's offense absent, but his presence as a whole was nowhere to be found, as he was sitting on the bench late into the fourth quarter. Whether he was on the bench in an attempt to keep him rested or to keep him off the foul line, the forward was kept quiet in this one.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Portland: C+
LaMarcus Aldridge was averaging 22 points per game heading into Thursday night, but he was relatively quiet by his standards throughout the matchup.
The 6'11" forward recorded just 14 points, and while he is the team's go-to scorer in almost any situation, his shot simply wasn't falling when the game was on the line.
Five assists are nice to see from Aldridge, but the four rebounds are unacceptable against a Clippers team that struggles on the glass as a whole.
DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles: A
DeAndre Jordan came out energized following his 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the San Antonio Spurs. His high-flying abilities were on display early against Portland and he was the team’s leading scorer behind Chris Paul heading into the second half.
Jordan would go on to play another solid half of basketball in the third and fourth quarters, and he finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds.
The area where Jordan has been criticized most in the past—other than free-throw shooting—is his offensive moves down on the low block. Against Portland, the big man had his hook shot rolling, and he took full advantage of the smaller defenders.
J.J. Hickson, C, Portland: D+
J.J. Hickson may have been undersized in this contest—as the 6’9” center often is—but he wasn’t out-energized by virtually anybody on the court from start to finish. Unfortunately, his energy couldn't translate into points, as he only scored two buckets and a free throw in this one.
The Blazers' big man is averaging the least time on the court of any starter on the roster, which we saw again against L.A. as he only played in 23 minutes. His biggest problem in the game was defending a much bigger DeAndre Jordan, who lit him up on the block throughout the contest.
Jamal Crawford, SG, Los Angeles : B+
Jamal Crawford heard the boos from his one-time home crowd all night long, but that didn’t rattle the veteran as he torched his former team for a game-high 25 points in just 28 minutes of play.
The 2-guard was an efficient 9-of-17 from the field, but the problem came in his three-point shooting, as he was just 1-of-6 from behind the arc. Luckily for Crawford, Portland couldn't keep up with the Clippers offense, so his deep-range shooting wasn't needed on this occasion.
Crawford leads the team in scoring this season, and he once again took advantage of the defense with his patented crossovers and pull-up jumpers.
Meyers Leonard, C, Portland: C
The Portland Trail Blazers drafted Meyers Leonard with the No. 11 pick in the 2012 draft, and while his size alone gives him potential in this league, he is a major project just five games into his NBA career.
Leonard’s defensive rotations were off as soon as he entered the game. When the 7’1” center was in the paint, he did a decent job of taking up space. The problems came when he was out of position, which was on more than one occasion, especially early in the game.
On the offensive side of the ball, Blazers fans got an unexpected treat in the form of eight points on 3-of-4 shooting. Leonard was given a few opportunities to take advantage above the rim, and by his standards, he had his most productive game of the season.
Los Angeles Clippers: A
Seeing as how Jamal Crawford is on the Los Angeles Clippers' bench, the team’s reserves found success against Portland as they have all season long. The 12-year veteran has made a living coming off the bench, and he is a very early (but very realistic) candidate for Sixth Man of the Year in 2013.
Crawford is the team’s leading scorer this season, but he’s not the only one making a difference off the bench. Players such as Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe have been reliable reserves and the second unit as a whole combined for 45 points on the night.
The only player who didn’t score off the bench was Lamar Odom.
Portland Trail Blazers: D-
The Portland Trail Blazers have the worst bench in the entire NBA, and that notion was on full display throughout the contest against the Clips.
Scoring just 22 points on the night, the entire bench was outscored by Jamal Crawford. They had virtually nobody come in and light a spark at any point, which is why the starting five had no juice by the time the game came to an end.
The only reason this second unit doesn't earn an F for the night is because of Meyers Leonard. The big man came in and got the crowd into the game, but he needs help if the starters are going to get their rest moving forward.