Waiting two days from the opening tip was grueling, but the Clippers waited and came out with some fire, as they went into the Moda Center and held off the young Blazers 114-106 as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin chip in with 27 a piece. Damian Lillard led Portland by 29.
As expected, it was a chippy affair as bad blood has been brewing behind the two franchises over the past few years, going back to Doc Rivers refusing to allow CJ McCollum to play after being, unintentionally, left off the active roster and the Blazers ousting the Clippers in the first round of the 2015/16 campaign once Griffin and Paul were ruled out due to injuries. Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer also have history outside of the NBA, which hasn't always been good as Allen alleges Ballmer, along with Bill Gates tried to rip him off.
Getting back to the hardwood, the Blazers were called for two flagrant fouls, one which was questionable, while each team received a technical foul when DeAndre Jordan and Mason Plumlee got into a mini-shoving match. Plumlee was assessed a flagrant for shoving Griffin to the floor while McCollum prevented a Jordan breakaway dunk with a foul that made no play on the ball.
"I won't comment on the officiating, but obviously I didn't like some of the calls," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
Los Angeles came into the game with the benefit of having game tape on the Blazers, after the clinic they put on opening up against the Jazz two nights prior, which the Clippers wanted to prevent and did, as Portland went 4-18 from range with Lillard going 2-5. For comparison, Portland had hit 13 three pointers against the Jazz.
"We just saw the clinic they put on at the 3-point line, so we just tried to make it tough on them and get them inside the line," said Paul, who only had 1 turnover.
Portland showed a lot of grit, trailing 107-92 after a Paul and-one with 2:54 remaining, they clawed their way back to make it an interesting finish, cutting it to as close as 107-102 with 35 seconds remaining before a savvy Paul drew a foul on Shabazz Napier and a JJ Redick drawn charge with 20 ticks remaining fully cemented the victory.
"When you shoot 40 percent on the road and you have the grit to still win the game, that was pretty cool," Coach Doc said.
--------------------------------- FIVE TAKEAWAYS
1] Clippers finally have assembled a fine bench with the additions of Marreese Speights, Raymond Felton, Brandon Bass and Alan Anderson. All four are solid vets, three of which have had deep runs into the playoffs with Speights being a recent member of the Warriors, also on the Grizzlies squads that the Clippers had chippy play with. Speights and Jamal Crawford led the Clippers second unit with 15 points a piece, while Jamal also chipped in with 4 steals. Speights led the Clippers with a +20.
2] Paul was aggressive while looking to score, and it was a thing of beauty. Only on 13 occasions during the 15-16 campaign did Paul attempt 19 shots or more, and he did so on his first game this year around, going 9-19 for 27 points. Only one give away as well was huge on keeping Portland from getting easy buckets.
3] Griffin looked confident when it came to jumpers, which was a nice thing to see. He did struggle overall, going 9-22 (40.9%), but that will adjust as the season continues. Knocking down 8-9 from the line and 1-3 from range was a solid look. Not to mention he chipped in with a bit everywhere, grabbing 13 boards, dishing two assists, three steals and one block. Like Paul, he only had one turnover as well.
4] Sticking to turnovers, the Clippers as a team only had seven giveaways, with only two coming off the bench. Taking care of the ball is always important and the Clippers emphasized that during their debut game. In contrast, Portland had 14 turnovers, 10 of which were due to Clipper steals. Portland scored 9 points off turnovers while the Clippers had 21.
5] Three-point shooting woes need to be worked upon and fixed. As a team, the Clippers went 8-29, good for 27.6%. That isn't a recipe for success, but rather a recipe for long-term disaster. Crawford went 1-6 while JJ Redick was 1-5. Those won't continue but the Clippers also had Rivers and Wesley Johnson combine for a goose egg on four attempts. Speights went 2-3, Griffin was 1-3 while Paul hit 3-8.
------------------------------ PLAYER OF THE GAME
Speights led the Clippers bench with 15 points and high energy. It was tough not giving it to Griffin or Paul, but the energy from Mo was key when the Clippers needed the energy and scoring.