Wednesday night at Staples Center may not have had the same electricity it had just a night before when the Lakers barely crept by the Rockets on ring night, unless you are talking about the die-hards. Clipper Nation stood proud and stared in awe to witness their updated squad and Blake Griffin's long-awaited debut. It was a beautiful sight, this opening night of Clippers basketball. The Clippers lineup appeared undersized against the long Trailblazers. Portland is a team that is certainly qualified to nail down a post-season slot if they can manage to stay healthy.
The crowd roared with enthusiasm as Blake took the mic at center court minutes before tipoff and rattled off a quick greeting.
Then Blake put his stamp on the game with a couple incredible leaping rebound-flushes to go with a slashing drive to the basket, all in the first quarter. The rookie came up big with 20 points and 14 rebounds for the game and he looked every bit the type of player Clippers Nation has been hootin' praise over. He demonstrated his instinctual feeling for the game by spreading his skills around the court in various ways. His athleticism is ridiculous, he nailed a couple shots outside the paint, and made a spectacular pass heading a fast break during a 3rd quarter rally.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, the Trailblazers used a variety of weapons and a 15-0 fourth quarter run to take the win and spoil the mood. Though shooting between the teams was pretty even at 40%, Portland took down 21 offensive rebounds, and on multiple times down the court they 3 or 4 attempts at baskets -- that won't get it done.
Portland's Brandon Roy burned several Clippers defenders (namely, Rasual Butler and Ryan Gomes) with solid outside shooting, and Nicolas Batum (pronounced Ba-toom) scored 15 points on 6-7 shooting, including 3 3-pointers at clutch times in the game.
Roy finished with 22 points and 4 assists.
Clippers center Chris Kaman was a mess. He sloppily made his way to a 4-18 shooting performance as the Clippers fed him constantly in the 1st and 4th quarters with little effectiveness.
The Clippers took the lead to end the 3rd quarter, 71-70, and led with a little of eight minutes to play 80-76. LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up for the Blazers and hurtled past LA with a 15-0 run that put the game away. Aldridge finished with 19 points and 10 boards.
Blake Griffin and the Clippers will now look forward to Friday night's matchup with Golden State in Northern California.