Damian Lillard misses clutch FTs, Trail Blazers blow key game against Clippers backups
The Clippers – maybe wanting to give the Lakers a tougher first-round matchup – showed their lack of interest in beating the Trail Blazers today by sitting Kawhi Leonard. Down five with two minutes left, the Clippers really waved the white flag by closing with a lineup of:
- Landry Shamet
- Terance Mann
- Rodney McGruder
- Patrick Patterson
- JaMychal Green
But that group ended the game on a 12-2 run to hand Portland a devastating 122-117 loss.
The Trail Blazers are now just half a game up for ninth in the Western Conference. This further opens the door for the Spurs, Pelicans, Suns and even Kings to make a play-in (and gives the Grizzlies more breathing room for advancing to that stage).
After McGruder hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, Damian Lillard drew a pair of free throws with Portland down one. Lillard is arguably the NBA’s most clutch player, and he had made 89% of his free throws this season. But he missed both – to the particular delight of injured Clippers guard Patrick Beverley:
Beverley and Lillard have a longstanding personal rivalry. The Clippers also have Paul George.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
I love Lillard’s ability to remain calm and in control. Kudos for him for finding a way to boast after missing a pair of free throws that effectively cost his team a big game. Really. Lillard’s emotional maturity is an asset.
Expect the Trail Blazers to follow his lead and not further unravel. They can and probably should still be favored to reach the play-in.
But their margin for error definitely just shrunk.