A 3 for the win
The Trail Blazers did a lot of little things not so well, and that added up to a disheartening loss Thursday night.
And, in the end, Blake Griffin did one very big thing perfectly, and that gave the Los Angeles Clippers a stunning, 104-103 victory.
Griffin buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap his big night and keep the surprising Clippers, sans now-Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul, undefeated this season.
The Clips are 4-0. The Blazers are 3-2.
Griffin had team highs of 25 points and five assists, with eight rebounds.
"Honestly, I was just trying to get two (points)," Griffin said of the final play, off a midcourt inbound play with 5.9 seconds remaining. "I was looking to see if we could get something easy or a quick layup. I was just trying to get a clean shot."
With time running down, "I didn't think I could get to the rim in time," Griffin said. "I took what was there. I saw Al-Farouq (Aminu) and somebody hesitate (on defense), so I pump-faked and let it go."
The shot spoiled Portland's bid to overcome foul trouble and a second consecutive home game of sluggish offense.
"A very disappointing loss. A great shot," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "Tough way to lose."
The Clippers, who have won seven regular-season games in a row over the Blazers, had five double-digit scorers. And center DeAndre Jordan grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds to go with seven points.
Guard Damian Lillard led five Blazers in double figures with 25 points. Guard CJ McCollum had 23, and forward Aminu had 19.
Portland, however, made just 39.3 percent from the field to L.A.'s 46.8 percent.
"We haven't played great offensively," Lillard said. "That's part of our growth, being able to find a way to win games without exploding on the offensive end. Of course we don't want to have it that way, but we've got to be able to win games when it's not going (on offense), and to do that, you've got to get stops and limt other teams' second-chance opportunities. Tonight, we allowed them to stay in the game by doing that."
The Clippers led 17-16 in second-chance points and 44-30 in points in the paint.
Center Jusuf Nurkic's spin move and banked basket from the left post gave Portland a 100-99 lead with 1:20 remaining.
Griffin drove on Nurkic for a 101-100 Los Angeles lead on the next possession.
MCollum then hit a midrange jumper from the right side, putting the Blazers in front, 102-101, with 43.1 seconds left.
The Clippers misfired but got the offensive rebound and an inbound opportunity with 20.3 seconds to play. Lillard was called for a foul on guard Austin Rivers' drive with 6.7 seconds remaining, but the call was changed to offensive after an officials' review.
A quick foul put McCollum at the free-throw line. He made only one of two shots, though, with 5.9 seconds to go.
The Clippers called a timeout and went to Griffin, whose shot went through cleanly.
"Great, great win," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We didn't play well. The first half was great. The second half we didn't move the ball, we were stuck with the game. Give (the Blazers) credit. I thought they made some great defensive adjustments, but that will be a good lesson for us."
Griffin finished 10 of 16 from the field, making 2 of 5 from 3-point range. Rivers and forward Danilo Gallinari had 16 points apiece for the Clippers. Point guard Patrick Beverley and reserve guard Lou Williams each had 13 points.
"This is big for our confidence," Griffin said. "First road game, and in a place like this. They're a great team, and the fans were into the game.
"I thought we did a good job executing down the stretch. I like our attitude. We're playing with a chip on our shoulders, playing really hard. We don't hang our heads."
Doc Rivers called it a "gutty win. I think Terry would say they didn't play great, either. It was one of those wins where you just hung in there. Especially on the road, when you win games like this, it just builds confidence.
"We're a new team. Nine new players. We're ticking along."
The Clippers led 30-24 after one quarter and 62-53 at the half, shooting 51.3 percent to Portland's 35.3 percent.
But it was a tight game. The largest L.A. lead was 10, the Blazers never led by more than three, the lead changed hands 17 times, and the teams were tied seven times.
"I was disappointed with our defense in the first half," Stotts said. "I liked the way we came back and competed and put ourselves in position to win."
Lillard and McCollum combined to make 15 of 37 from the floor, going 6 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Losing at the buzzer is "pretty much the worst way to go out," Lillard said, "especially after you put in an effort like we put together to put ourselves in position to win."
NOTES: The Los Angeles bench outscored Portland's, 27-11. ... Lillard and Patrick Beverley have had their contentious moments, but Stotts called it a "healthy competition. Both guys want to get the better of the other, but I don't think there's any acrimony." Beverley grabbed seven rebounds. "I could have done a better job keeping Patrick Beverley off the offensive glass," Lillard said. … Nurkic has struggled offensively this season. "Basically, he hasn't been finishing around the basket and his turnovers are up a little, but it's a small sample size," Stotts said. Nurkic had 12 points and eight rebounds Thursday. He was plagued by foul trouble, picking up his fifth early in the third quarter. He was limited to 27 minutes… Portland was without C Meyers Leonard (sprained ankle). … Austin Rivers injured a finger on the play in the closing seconds in which he was called for a charge. He called it a "weird dislocation … to the side and then on top of my bone, so it was like a staircase, kind of. I didn't know what the hell was going on. I started clapping my hands, and I felt something painful, so I looked at my hand and stared screaming."