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Crawford miss cinches Blazer victory


Things were all set up for the Rose Garden’s Saturday night villain to be the hero.

Jamal Crawford had the ball, with an open look at the basket, his Los Angeles Clippers trailing 101-100 and the game clock ticking down to zero.

The cocksure Crawford figures he was born for such situations.

It wasn’t to be, not this time. Crawford’s 20-footer bounced off the rim as the final horn sounded, giving the Trail Blazers a 101-100 victory over the Clippers.

When the shot missed, Crawford — who was wearing a Blazer jersey at this time last year — was as surprised as the Garden denizens were ecstatic.

“That’s the shot I wanted,” said Crawford, who played for the Trail Blazers last season. “I saw the defense behind Nic (Batum). I got the space I wanted — everything. I thought it was in when I let it go.”

Batum collected 20 points, a career-high 12 assists and 10 rebounds — his second triple-double in three games — to lead Portland (22-21), which won its second straight game after losing six in a row.

Crawford had scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, fueling a comeback that brought the Clippers from a 13-point third-quarter deficit to a nine-point lead in the closing minutes.

Down 100-91 with 2:38 remaining, Portland scored the game’s final 10 points, holding the Clippers scoreless on their final five possessions.

“To end the game on a 10-0 run was a testament to what we’ve done for most of the season,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “We don’t quit. We bounce back. We’re resilient.”

“We’ve learned how to win close games,” said Portland rookie Damian Lillard, who scored 20 points and knocked down 4 of 7 3-point attempts.

To put things in the proper perspective, the Blazers have lost their share. They are 12-8 this season in games decided by six points or fewer. Eleven of their last dozen games have fallen into that category. They have lost six of them.

But they made all the right plays down the stretch Saturday night.

“We kind of have a history of it,” Stotts said. “It’s been reinforced. We have a belief. I have a belief in (the players). They have a belief in themselves. And that goes a long way.”

On Pet Appreciation Night at the Garden, the Clippers were the ones playing like dogs at game’s end, going 0 for 5 with a turnover on their final five possessions.

“We let that one get away from us,” said Crawford, who heard more boos than cheers when he entered the game late in the first quarter. “To come back and get the lead and not finish the deal is disappointing, for sure.”

Portland extended a six-point halftime lead to 74-61 midway through the third quarter, thanks to a barrage of 3-point shots by Batum (two), Lillard and Wesley Matthews. The Clippers, with Crawford and Blake Griffin leading the way, rallied to get to within 82-76 heading into the final period.

Portland led 89-85 when the Clippers, with Crawford doing much of the damage, scored 11 in a row to seize a 96-89 lead with 4:13 remaining.

L.A.’s advantage was 100-91 when Lillard sank a 3 to make it 100-94 with 2:10 to go.

“I knew we needed a bucket,” he said. “It was a broken possession. I figured (defender Eric Bledsoe) probably didn’t think I’d raise up and shoot the ball. I was fortunate the shot fell.”

After a Clipper miss, J.J. Hickson’s dunk trimmed the margin to 100-96 with 1:36 left.

Crawford rimmed out a 3-point attempt, Matthews converted a three-point play, and suddenly it was 100-99 with 1:09 seconds to play.

Lamar Odom’s jumper missed, and Hickson was fouled on the rebound. He sank both free throws, and the Blazers were on top 101-100 with 45.2 seconds remaining.

“Near the end of a close game earlier this season — I forget what game — I missed two free throws,” said Hickson, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. “I got down on myself. I thought, ‘Any time I get an opportunity to make two big free throws, I have to knock them down.’ ”

After a turnover by each team, the Clippers called a timeout with 29.7 seconds to go. Crawford missed a driving layup, and a jump ball was called with 12.4 seconds left.

The Clippers controlled the tip, but Crawford’s game-winning attempt found only iron as the clock ran out.

NOTES: The Blazers and Clippers both boarded flights after the game bound for Los Angeles, where they’ll meet up again at Staples Center Sunday night. "We didn’t want to lose this game and go down 0-1 (to the Clippers in the back-to-back series), so to speak,” Hickson said. Added Stotts: “It’s going to be a challenge. The tendency is for the team that won to let down. Winning the first one is really important. It’s at their place and they lost, so they’re going to be hungry.” ... Griffin scored a game-high 24 points, matched his career high with 10 assists and grabbed eight rebounds for the Clippers (32-13), who equalled a season high with their fourth straight loss. ... The Clippers were without All-Star point guard Chris Paul (right knee), who missed his third straight game. Coach Vinny Del Negro considers Paul doubtful for Sunday night’s rematch. ... Guard Chauncey Billups (left foot) was on the floor working hard prior to the game, but he was not available for duty, either. “With Chauncey and Chris, there’s no timetable,” Del Negro said. “They’re both feeling better. Chauncey is doing more physical stuff than Chris. We’re trying to get Chris as much therapy and rest as possible. Once he starts some contact, I’ll have a better feel for (his return).” ...

Batum is one of four NBA players with more than one triple-double this season. The others are Miami’s LeBron James, Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Toronto’s Jose Calderon. ... Batum is the second Blazer to record two triple-doubles in the same week, joining Clyde Drexler (twice) in that category. Are triple-doubles getting old hat? “No,” Batum said with a laugh. “I want to get two or three more this season. Why not? But it’s better when you win the game.” Said Lillard: “He does everything well. People don’t realize how good a playmaker he is, defender, rebounder, scorer, shooter. He does everything well. Him having a triple-double, I’m not surprised by it. He always has his hands in everything. I expect him to get more.” ... Crawford, who signed a free-agent contract with the Clippers after opting out of his deal after one year with the Blazers, said the unfriendly reception by the Garden crowd didn’t faze him. “I’m not worried about it, honestly,” he said. “If I was here five years and I was emotionally attached to it, it would hurt. But I was here a lockout season. (The fans) feel how they feel. That’s their opinion.” ... The 13-year veteran struggled early, going 1 for 6 while collecting three points, three assists and two turnovers in the first half. He finished 6-for-15 shooting with four assists, three rebounds and five turnovers in 32 minutes.

Portland made five fewer field goals (40-35) than the Clippers but won the game at the 3-point line (11 for 25 to the Clippers’ 7 for 16) and the foul line (20 for 21 to the Clippers 13 for 17). ... The Clippers had a 41-32 advantage on the boards — 24-11 in the second half — and grabbed 15 off the offensive glass. ... Crawford all but broke Matthews’ ankles on a crossover move, sinking a short jumper in the first half. ... Stotts greeted Clipper forward Lamar Odom warmly before the game. Stotts was an assistant coach at Dallas last season during Odom’s brief, ill-fated time there. “It was just one of those years for Lamar,” Stotts said. “Coming into a new situation, it was a disappointing year. I’m glad he’s bounced back well with the Clippers. He’s a great fit for them. He’s showing his versatility.”