Clippers-Trail Blazers Preview
Damian Lillard's fourth-quarter outburst pushed the Portland Trail Blazers within one win of eliminating the injury-plagued Los Angeles Clippers.
The Blazers could use a better start from their point guard as they attempt to finish off their opening-round series in six games Friday night at home.
Lillard made four of Portland's six 3-pointers and scored 16 points in the final period as the Blazers pulled away for a 108-98 victory Wednesday. He also missed his first six shots from the floor and didn't register his first field goal until hitting a 3-pointer with 9:39 left in the third quarter, giving him six points at the time.
That allowed the Clippers to hang with Portland despite missing Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
"I've always been able to put the first three quarters behind me and come up big when my team has needed it," Lillard said. "I just had to be patient. It wasn't even so much missing the shots that were bothering me, it was just that I couldn't get any attempts because they were so aggressive. But I stayed with it, kept my mind right and I saw one go in. That was it."
C.J. McCollum scored 27 points and has averaged 24.3 in the Blazers' comeback from a 2-0 deficit. Portland is seeking to avoid returning to Los Angeles on Sunday for Game 7.
"We've got a unique opportunity to play an elimination game at home, and now we want to make sure we take full advantage of it," McCollum said.
The Blazers outpaced Los Angeles by a combined 22 points in its Game 3 and 4 victories with Griffin and Paul on the floor. Paul broke a bone in his right hand Monday, requiring surgery, and Griffin re-aggravated a quad injury.
J.J. Redick - reportedly dealing with an ailing left heel - led the Clippers with 19 points, his best performance in the series. Jamal Crawford had 17 points while making a rare start but missed 17 of 23 shots as Los Angeles shot 41.9 percent.
The Clippers have shot 39.5 percent in their three losses in the series - including a 25.4 mark from 3-point range - after connecting at 49.7 percent and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc in taking a 2-0 series lead.
The Blazers' 44.6 percent effort in Game 5 was their best in the series and followed a combined 39.3 in the first four games. They've made 25 3-pointers in the last two contests after hitting 21 in the first three.
"We just made some simple mental mistakes and with Blake and Chris out, we cannot really afford to make mistakes," said Clippers guard Austin Rivers, Paul's replacement in the starting lineup Wednesday. "We played pretty good defense overall, I just think we need to be better offensively."
The Clippers faced a 3-2 deficit against San Antonio in last year's opening round but rallied for a seven-game victory. They also blew a 3-1 lead over Houston in a seven-game defeat in the Western Conference semifinals.
"I think now that we know what to expect, you'll see a much better game for a full game," Rivers told the team's official website. "We win Game 6, it's right back to our momentum…We're still focused and ready to go."
Los Angeles has been bounced in the opening round just once in its last five trips to the playoffs, losing in six games to Memphis in 2013.
The Blazers are seeking just their second win in 10 series since reaching the West finals in 2000. They topped Houston in six games in 2014.