PORTLAND — Clippers forward Blake Griffin hit a game-winning three-pointer as time expired to defeat the Trail Blazers 104-103 in front of a crowd of 18,694 Thursday night at the Moda Center.
“Very disappointing loss,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Griffin hit a great shot at the end. A tough way to lose a game. I was disappointed with our defense in the first half. I liked the way came back and competed and put ourselves in a position to win, but losses like this are tough.”
Portland is now 3-2 overall and 1-1 this season at the Moda Center.
After a hard-fought game that featured 17 lead changes, seven ties and 45 fouls, the Trail Blazers held a slim advantage after CJ McCollum went 1-of-2 from the free throw line with five seconds to play to give Portland a 103-101 lead. The fact that the Trail Blazers had the lead late in the game despite shooting less than 40 percent from the field and being awarded 14 fewer free throws was in and of itself a small miracle.
But Blake Griffin evidently doesn’t believe in miracles. The 6-10 forward, who is shooting 44 percent from three this season, got a clean look from deep as the final buzzer to sounded to give the Trail Blazers their second loss of the season while keeping the Clippers unbeaten through six games.
“It’s always tough to lose at the buzzer, you don’t get an opportunity to come back and do nothing, that’s the end of the game,” said Damian Lillard. “We’ve been on the winning end of that, so we know how it feels and we know how much it hurt the other team. That’s pretty much the worst way to go out, especially after you put an effort like we put together to put ourselves in position to win.
The Trail Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who went 7-of-19 from the field, 4-of-9 from three and 7-of-7 from the line for 25 points to go with six assists and two rebounds in 38 minutes. McCollum went 8-of-18 from the field for 23 points, five rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes. While Portland’s starting backcourt eventually combined for nearly half of Portland’s points, both struggled shooting from the field in the first half, an issue in both of Portland’s home games thus far this season.
“We’ve struggled offensively,” said Lillard. “We haven’t played great offensively. That’s part of our growth, is being able to find a way to win games without going out there and 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 the offensive end and to do that, you’ve got to get stops and limit other teams’ second chance opportunities. Tonight we allowed them to stay in the game by doing that.”
Al-Farouq Aminu kept Portland in the game in the third quarter with his shooting before finishing the night 5-of-8 from three on the way to 19 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists in 32 minutes. Maurice Harkless added 13 and Jusuf Nurkić, who once again found himself in foul trouble Thursday night, pitched in 12 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.
Griffin finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes.
“When (Griffin) makes perimeter shots, it makes it tougher,” said Stotts. “He’s strong. I thought we had some better possessions later on, but he’s strong and he gets to his spot and he finishes strong with his right hand. You don’t want to overplay his right hand too much because he’s good at spinning back.”
Austin Rivers and Danilo Gallinari each added 16 and DeAndre Jordan grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds.
Next up, the Trail Blazers continue their four-game homestand by hosting the Phoenix Suns Saturday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.