The Trail Blazers took a big step forward Tuesday night in their caliber of play, but unfortunately for them, it did not lead to a win.
The Los Angeles Clippers slid past the Blazers 113-112, stealing the victory inside the final five seconds.
The Trail Blazers led by five with 1:03 to go on a 29-foot three-point shot by CJ McCollum, but did not score another point. Meanwhile, Paul George got to the basket for a pair of layups to draw the Clips within a point.
Then, with 4.8 left, George drew a foul on his way to the hoop and converted both foul shots to give his team the one-point lead that would win the game.
Norman Powell had missed a clean look at a three from the right corner with 16.5 left and then McCollum’s 14-foot pullup in traffic failed to go in as the final horn sounded.
You couldn’t complain about either shot, it’s just that neither went in.
“The last minute, Norm had a great look,” Terry Stotts said. “CJ made a great pass to him, Rondae screened his man, so Norm, I heard, has the third-best three-point percentage from the corner. So you couldn’t get a better look than that for Norm.
“And CJ, watching the replay, he got a clean look at it. Maybe he could’ve drawn a foul, but you don’t want to necessarily leave it in the hands of the referees. But you look at that shot and it was almost in. I thought those two were really good looks.”
They were. And Portland played a solid game, blitzing George on virtually every pick-and-roll, frequently getting the ball out of his hands.
For the game, George was 13-22 from the field but only 2-8 from three-point range on the way to 33 points.
Los Angeles did manage to hit 50 percent of its shots from the floor, but only 11-38 from distance.
It was another loss to a team ahead of Portland in the Western Conference standings, but this was a far cry from the blowouts the Blazers had suffered in recent games against those teams.
This was an improvement. A step in the right direction. And with the Denver Nuggets stopping by Moda Center Wednesday night, it will be interesting to see if that direction stays the same.
And with Damian Lillard expected to be back in uniform, that should help stay the course.