We said in the Game 2 Recap that the Portland Trail Blazers needed their starting backcourt to find their groove to extend this series. The Blazers got just that in Game 3 as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum finally came to life in this series.
Lillard got things started early, scoring 12 of the Blazers’ 22 first quarter points. McCollum helped keep things going in the second quarter, leading the second unit and managing to keep the Clippers backups from outplaying them as they did in Game 2.
The Blazers entered halftime with a 49-40 lead.
The Blazers then got nice production out of Mason Plumlee in the third quarter. We said in the last recap that Plumlee showed some skill as a facilitator and could be a key in beating the Clippers’ traps. Plumlee managed to do just that. Lillard and McCollum often got him the ball in the middle of the paint against a recovering Clippers’ defense. From there, Plumlee managed to find open teammates for easy shots around the rim or score himself in the lane. Terry Stotts and his team finally found a consistent answer to the Clippers’ aggressive defense, which had forced the ball out of Lillard and McCollum’s hands, leaving it up to the role players to make the Clippers’ pay. We finally saw that in Game 3 and, if sustainable, could make this an interesting series moving forward.
The Blazers also reestablished their rebounding advantage, grabbing 12 more boards than the Clippers in Game 3, including 16 offensive rebounds. Several key buckets late in the game came off of offensive rebounds and putbacks, which is something we identified as something the Blazers had to exploit to be competitive in this series.
Jamal Crawford did his best to keep his team in the game, scoring several times on tough midrange jumpers. Crawford finished the game with 19 points on 9-18 shooting from the field. However, the Clippers got uneven production across the roster, especially from Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick. Griffin and Redick make up two of the Clippers’ big-four, so getting a lackluster performance from them is not sustainable. The two combined to go 7-26 from the field.
The Clippers are still in good shape moving forward, but they’ll need to get better performances from Redick and Griffin and need to do a better job of keeping the Blazers off the offensive glass. Also, they need to figure out how to neutralize Plumlee when he gets the ball in the middle of the lane out of a Lillard or McCollum pick-and-roll. The Clippers are lucky that it took three games for Plumlee to burn them in that position, but now they need to address that set and neutralize it.
Prediction: The Clippers put together a better effort on the boards and take Game 4.
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