Blazers drop final game before All-Star break
LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin scored 36 points, Chris Paul had 20 points and 12 assists, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 122-117 on Wednesday night in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break.
The Clippers, who set a franchise record for largest victory Sunday in their 45-point thrashing of Philadelphia, converted 16 Portland turnovers into 20 points during a back-and-forth game that included 40 lead changes.
Paul made 10 of 15 shots in his second game back after missing 18 with a separated right shoulder, and Jamal Crawford added 25 points for Los Angeles. The Clippers have won 14 of their last 19 since Jan. 4, when the Spurs handed them their worst loss of the season, 116-92 in San Antonio.
The defending Pacific Division champions go into All-Star weekend 37-18, their second-best winning percentage at the break in franchise history. They were 39-17 last season, when they finished 56-26 and won their first division title. Los Angeles and Portland are each 51/2; games behind Oklahoma City for the best record in the Western Conference.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points and Damian Lillard had 21 for the Blazers, who are 5-8 since a five-game winning streak last month. The loss was their fifth straight to the Clippers at Staples Center.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan had a miserable time trying to guard Aldridge in the first quarter, as the 6-foot-11 power forward made six of seven shots — one night after going 5 for 22 from the field and scoring 12 points in Portland's 98-95 home loss to Oklahoma City.
All six of those baskets against the Clippers came from at least 17 feet away, including a 3-pointer that gave the Blazers a 30-25 lead with 1:42 left in the period.
Los Angeles then went on a 12-0 run to go ahead 37-30 with 10:50 left in the second quarter, as backup point guard Darren Collison capped the rally with a layup and two free throws. Less than 71/2; minutes later, Griffin outleaped 7-1 center Meyers Leonard on a lob above the basket by Paul and finished the alley-oop for a 53-52 edge with 3:28 left in the half.
Aldridge had 32 points, 10 assists and no turnovers the last time Portland played the Clippers on Dec. 26. On Sunday, he will become the fifth player to represent the club in three consecutive All-Star games.
Lillard's addition to the West squad will mark the first time the Trail Blazers have two players in an All-Star game since 1994, when Clyde Drexler and Cliff Robinson were selected.
NOTES: Jordan had six rebounds in 37 minutes, ending his double-digit streak at 31 games. The franchise record is 42, by Swen Nater in 1977-78. ... Portland came in averaging an NBA-best 107.7 points, and the Clippers were second with 106.7 per game. ... The Blazers are the only team in the league to have the same starting lineup in every game — Aldridge, Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez. They all scored in double figures. ... Paul, who will be playing in his seventh All-Star game, scored his 11,000th career point on a short running jumper with 5:52 remaining. His 113 double-doubles since the start of the 2010-11 season are the most by any point guard during that stretch. ... Seven of Portland's next eight games will be at home, where the Blazers are 19-6. ... Los Angeles is 17-11 when Griffin leads the team in scoring outright. He had a team-high 35 points in a 116-112 overtime loss at Portland on Dec. 26. ... The Clippers, who shot 58.2 percent, are 17-1 when shooting at least 50 percent. ... The Clippers have scored 100 or more points in 11 straight home games, their longest streak since Staples Center opened in 1999-00. ... Portland played without Joel Freeland, who sprained his right knee Tuesday.