If the playoffs started today, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers would meet in the first round. That in itself provides for great basketball. Going into this game both teams were a combined 40 games over the .500 mark and stand as two powerhouses in the dominant Western Conference. Not to mention the Blake Griffin-LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Paul-Damian Lillard matchups provide for better TV drama than the Real Housewives of “whatever city you live in.”
Blake Griffin scored 36 points, Chris Paul added 20 points and 12 assists and the Clippers beat the Blazers 122-117 on Wednesday night in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break. Paul made 10-of-15 shots in his second game back after missing 18 with a separated right shoulder and Jamal Crawford added 25 points for Los Angeles. The Clippers have won 14 of their last 19 since Jan. 4, when the Spurs handed them their worst loss of the season, 116-92 in San Antonio.
The Clippers, who set a franchise record for largest victory Sunday in their 45-point thrashing of Philadelphia, converted 16 Portland turnovers into 20 points during a back-and-forth game that included 40 lead changes.
The defending Pacific Division champions go into All-Star weekend 37-18, their second-best winning percentage at the break in franchise history. They were 39-17 last season, when they finished 56-26 and won their first division title. Los Angeles and Portland are each 5½ games behind Oklahoma City for the best record in the Western Conference.
Both teams will have many representatives in All-Star Weekend. Damian Lillard will become the first player in NBA history to compete in all five All-Star events and LaMarcus Aldridge will be coming off the bench in the All-Star Game on Sunday. Lillard’s addition to the West squad will mark the first time the Blazers have two players in an All-Star game since 1994, when Clyde Drexler and Cliff Robinson were selected. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul will both be in the All-Star Game, Griffin as a starter at power forward and Paul coming off the bench.