Saturday’s game was within reach for the Trail Blazers, but after not executing down the stretch, the Clippers finished off the Blazers 122-117.
There’s no doubt about it— Saturday’s game hurt.
It was a chippy one, too, with the Clippers’ bench taunting Damian Lillard in a rare occasion where the Trail Blazers point guard didn’t come up with Lillard Time.
With Saturday's loss, the Blazers are now 1.5 games back of the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies and just 0.5 game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs to keep hold of that ninth spot out West.
“We didn’t make the plays at either end to win that game [down the stretch],” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said in his initial postgame thoughts.
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Portland wasn’t able to get enough stops down the stretch couple that with costly fouls and Damian Lillard missing a pair of free throws with 18.6 seconds left on the clock, the Blazers loss stings now that Portland has its eyes set on that eighth seed, not ninth.
In our huddle, in our locker room we saying let’s go win all three because we trying to get a chance at the eight spot. We trying to track down Memphis so that’s what we looking at and we also know that other teams are playing well. You don’t know who is going to be playing for some of the teams that they have to play, so we’ve got to have the mindset of just going out there to win all three. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard
McCollum felt the way that many did around Rip City -- he was shocked Lillard missed both free throws; however, just like McCollum said, Saturday’s game shouldn’t have come down to those points at the charity stripe.
“Very surprised,” McCollum said postgame. “But just like I told him, it shouldn’t even have come down to that. We’ve got to do a better job of executing and putting them away earlier. Especially, going against most of their second-unit guys -- we’ve got to do a better job.”
McCollum also added that with the Blazers playing for a chance to make the playoffs, he thinks “every game is a must-win, especially with just three games remaining.”
The Blazers know they don't have time to hang their heads.
Coach Stotts discussed the team's quick turnaround with Sunday’s game against the 76ers tipping off at 3:30pm PT.
The Sixers are a challenge whether it’s a back-to-back or not. This loss today really hurt. So, hopefully we have the mindset of how important that game is tomorrow, but… look – they’re great athletes, we play back-to-backs during the regular season, so I don’t think the fact that it’s a back-to-back will matter because we know how important it is. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts
While McCollum explained how much Saturday’s game stings, but that the Blazers can learn from this one.
A game that we should’ve won, let it slip through our hands. Now we gotta be better down the stretch with these last three games remaining. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum
Portland will get a break Saturday though. Ben Simmons (left knee; patella subluxation) is out with looming knee procedure. The Sixers have also listed Glenn Robinson III (left hip; pointer) as questionable.
The Trail Blazers will now face the Sixers Sunday, the Mavericks Tuesday, and then round out their seeding games on Thursday with a matchup against the Nets.
Rip City knows that Lillard wants another crack at finishing off a team in the bubble and he most likely will get that shot.