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The LA Clippers tied a franchise record by dropping 47 points in the first quarter. They made each of their first nine shots, and didn't miss their second field goal attempt until nearly eight minutes after tipoff. 

Paul George scored 22 points during the opening stanza alone. By the time Terry Stotts called timeout with 8:20 remaining in the first half, the Trail Blazers trailed the Clippers by an eye-popping score of 62-36. 

Portland tightened up from there, closing the second quarter on a 30-11 run to enter intermission down just seven points. When Robert Covington drained a tough three-pointer with a hand in his face midway through the third quarter, the Blazers were suddenly within a single possession of climbing all the way out of their massive hole – momentum that, unfortunately, quickly dissipated for good from there.

After the game, a 133-116 loss, Stotts couldn't help but harp on the early play that ultimately made Portland's comeback efforts fruitless. The normally mild-mannered coach hardly minced words, either.

"I thought the first 16 minutes of the game was, frankly, it was a little embarrassing," Stotts said. "We put up a good fight the last eight minutes of the second quarter and competed well at both ends, got back into it. But the first 16 minutes were extremely disappointing."

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Asked if he relayed that message to his players in the locker room, Stotts answered succinctly: "It didn't go unsaid."

His frustration didn't fall on deaf ears. Norman Powell supported his new coach's assessment of the Blazers' early play, singling out their toothless defense.

"I would agree," Powell said of Stotts' comments. "The first quarter was really bad defensively. They didn't feel us, they got into a rhythm, were able to hit shots, built that lead. Then when we started putting in that effort and physicality on defense."

Portland's defense indeed improved after the game's first 16 minutes. LA shot just 41.1 percent after Stotts called that second-quarter timeout, managing an ugly offensive rating of 104.4, per NBA.com/stats. But regression to the mean undoubtedly played a role in the Clippers cooling down. 

The Blazers got more aggressive after halftime, forcing the ball out of George's hands in ball-screen action and overloading the strong side of the floor on Kawhi Leonard isos. While that change in strategy paid dividends for Portland, the prevailing wisdom of its defensive deficiencies won out in the end. The Blazers just don't have an answer for superstar wings the likes of George and Leonard, especially without Jusuf Nurkic protecting the backline.

The Utah Jazz, thankfully, present a much different challenge. We'll find out on Thursday if Stotts' harsh words yield the effort, engagement and communication defensively that's been far too fleeting for Portland all season.

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