Lillard's 32 carry Blazers past Clippers in Game 3
PORTLAND — Damian Lillard scored 32 points and the Portland Trail Blazers found their offense at home, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 96-88 on Saturday night to pull within 2-1 in the Western Conference first-round series.
Newly crowned Most Improved Player CJ McCollum added 27 points for Portland, which snapped a five-game losing streak to the Clippers going back to the regular season.
Mason Plumlee had six points, 21 rebounds and nine assists for Portland, which hosts Game 4 on Monday night.
Lillard had made only 13 of 39 from the floor, and just 3 of 14 from 3-point range in the first two games. But he found his shot on Saturday, hitting 10 of 20 from the field with three 3-pointers.
Chris Paul finished with 26 points for the Clippers, who had held the Blazers to an average of just 88 points in the first two games — down from an average of 105.1 in the regular season. Paul has scored 25 or more points in four straight playoff games dating to last season.
The Clippers went ahead 78-77 with 6:26 left, their first lead since the opening quarter. After Portland answered with consecutive baskets from Lillard and Plumlee, Jamal Crawford and Paul answered with a pair of jumpers to put Los Angeles back in front.
Lillard's fadeaway gave Portland an 86-85 lead with 2:36 to go. Maurice Harkless added a layup.
There was a scary moment when Paul chased down McCollum on a fast break sending both tumbling under the basket, and Paul appeared to struggle getting up.
Harkless' dunk gave the Blazers a 91-86 lead with 55 seconds left and Los Angeles couldn't catch up.
Game 3 had been an obstacle for the Blazers: Last season they fell behind Memphis 3-0 in the first round and the year before they were in a 3-0 hole to San Antonio in the conference semifinals. Portland lost both series.
Since 2008, 53 of 55 teams to win the first two games of an NBA playoff series have ultimately prevailed. No team has advanced after trailing 2-0 since Memphis came back against the Clippers in the first round in 2013.
The Clippers also blew a 3-1 last season against Houston in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Blazers had made just 37 percent of their shots in the first two games after making 45 percent in the regular season. They improved to 42 percent Saturday.
Lillard set the tone with a game-opening 3-pointer, then went on to score 12 points as Portland pulled in front 17-10. The Clippers erased the deficit, taking a 19-17 lead on DeAndre Jordan's dunk. McCollum's step-back jumper and free throw, followed by Ed Davis' dunk, pushed Portland's lead to 34-26. The Blazers' biggest lead in the first two games was two points.
The Clippers closed the gap to four, but Portland led 49-40 at the half.
Plumlee had a reverse dunk in the third quarter that put the Portland crowd on its feet, but the Clippers went ahead 59-58 on Jordan's dunk.
Crawford's pull-up jumper got Los Angeles within 70-69 early in the fourth quarter but the Clippers weren't able to pull ahead until Ed Davis' goaltending on Austin Rivers' layup made it 78-77 with 6:26 to go.
Clippers: J.J. Redick started despite a bruised heel that kept him out of practice on Friday. ... Paul Pierce, who did not play in Game 2, came off the bench to start the second quarter.
Trail Blazers: McCollum was honored before the game for his award. The Blazers also honored broadcaster Joe Becker, who is retiring after 32 years at Portland's KGW TV.
At times, especially in the third quarter, Plumlee appeared to single-handedly keep the Blazers in the game with his rebounds. He became the first NBA player with 19 or more rebounds and eight or more assists in a playoff game since LeBron James in 2010. Plumlee is the first Blazer center with eight-plus assists in a postseason game since Arvydas Sabonis in 1999 against Phoenix.