No Kawhi Leonard. No Patrick Beverley. No Montrezl Harrell. And down the stretch, against one of the game’s great closers, no Paul George … or Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris Sr., Reggie Jackson.
Facing one of the bubble’s hottest, most motivated teams, the Clippers’ role players refused give the Portland Trail Blazers the victory they so badly needed Saturday in the bubble, stealing a 122-117 win.
L.A.’s contingent of JaMychal Green, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, Terance Mann and Patrick Patterson finished the game on a 12-2 run, and the Clippers clamped down on superstar Damian Lillard, holding him two points in the final quarter.
In that final period — the time of game that so often belongs to the five-time All-Star — Lillard missed all but one of his final five shots.
And, with his Trail Blazers trailing by one point, the 88.6% free-throw shooter missed two foul shots with 18.6 seconds to go — to the clearly demonstrated delight of the stars and starters, a couple of whom flopped around jubilantly on the Clippers’ bench.
“The reason they’re reacting like that is because of what they expect from me,” Lillard told reporters after the game. “Which is a sign of respect. And it just shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not, so I’m not offended. If anything, it should just tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.”
Lillard was referencing his two Western Conference playoff first-round series-ending shots, one in 2014 against the Houston Rockets (for whom Beverley then played) and the other in 2019 against the Oklahoma City Thunder (then George’s team).
George said he was happy to see the Clippers’ reserves deliver Saturday — and shrugged off the spirited conversation that built between the teams.
“Competition,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Simple as that. It’s just competition. Some people can play with talking, some people can’t.”
After talking to reporters, George posted a response to Lillard’s comments on the Bleacher Report Instagram page: “And you getting sent home this year,” the Clippers’ star wrote, adding a laughing emoji and, “respect.”
Lillard commented back at the first-year Clipper: “Keep switching teams … running from the grind. You boys is chumps.”
On his own Instagram, George wrote: “It be alot of jawing going on and I keep my peace. Imagine y’all go thru 6 major surgeries and still be standing. I promise the story would be different if that never happened! But respect it. Injuries is apart of the game I play. I’ll leave it on that floor every time I suit up. God bless.”
Losing to the Clippers could cost the Trail Blazers. With a win, ninth-seeded Portland (32-39) would have improved to 4-1 in the bubble and kept pace with eighth-seeded Memphis (33-37) for the possible best-of-two play-in.
The Trail Blazers also would have distanced themselves some from San Antonio (30-38), New Orleans (30-39) and Phoenix (30-39), the three teams most closely on their heals for that play-in opportunity, which …read more
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News