Damian Lillard looks to ignite Blazers against Clippers
The Portland Trail Blazers employ one of the most exciting players in the NBA but they are teetering on falling out of the play-in race.
Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard will try to get his team back in the win column after five straight losses when Portland hosts the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night.
Portland (31-39) is in 13th place in the Western Conference and stands three games behind the final play-in spots with just 12 games to play.
The Trail Blazers have collapsed at a bad time by dropping 10 of their past 13 games. Portland also has lost the first two games of a stretch in which they play eight of nine at home.
Lillard scored 25 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter on Friday night but the Trail Blazers fell 126-112 to the Boston Celtics.
It was a devastating loss, and the seven-time All-Star promised he's not about to let down while Portland still has a chance to land a berth.
"Even when it seems like it's out of reach, I'm going to go out there and compete and I'm going to try to make something happen regardless of how realistic or unrealistic it is and live with the results," Lillard said.
Lillard has scored 20 or more points in 31 consecutive games and is averaging a career-high 32.4 points. He has 15 outings of 40 or more points this season, including 50, 60 and a career-best 71.
While Lillard rolls up the points, so do the opponents. Portland has given up 120 or more points in 20 of its past 28 games.
The Celtics scored more than 30 points in three of four quarters in Friday's victory.
"Games like (Friday night), we played a team that's -- let's face it -- better than us," Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. "That's one of the elite teams in the league. When you play against teams like that, you can't shoot yourself in the foot, because you've got to play pretty much an outstanding game to have a shot."
The Clippers (37-34) are in fifth place in the Western Conference but are coming off a 113-108 home loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday. The setback ended a four-game winning streak.
Star Kawhi Leonard sat out the contest to rest his surgically repaired knee even though Los Angeles hadn't played since Wednesday. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue didn't shed much light on the situation, saying he only knew Leonard wasn't playing Saturday.
Los Angeles had a rough time without Leonard and made just 6 of 22 3-point attempts and committed 15 turnovers. The Clippers led by eight after three quarters before being outscored 39-26 in the final period.
Russell Westbrook took responsibility for the setback. He had six turnovers and was 5-of-14 shooting while producing 14 points and nine assists.
"There's no excuse for tonight," Westbrook said. "We just didn't close the game like we were supposed to, make the right plays like we needed to."
Paul George scored 30 points but also committed six turnovers.
"I just know I gotta do my job and be more aggressive, and just try to keep us poised," George said. "That's really the adjustments that goes into when Kawhi's out. Just be a little bit more aggressive."
The Clippers defeated host Portland 118-112 on Nov. 29 when Leonard, George and Lillard all didn't play. Norman Powell scored a season-best 32 points for Los Angeles but he is currently out with a shoulder injury. Anfernee Simons led the Trail Blazers with 37 points.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 19, 2023