Chris Paul, Clippers damper huge night from J.J. Hickson, beat Blazers 98-97

Just like what happened the last time these two teams met in Portland, All-Star point guard Chris Paul switched from distributor to deadly scorer in the fourth quarter, with the Clippers (30-21) down by one after a tough make by Jamal Crawford on the other end. Paul drives inside and gets a lay up that passes three Blazers to give Los Angeles the lead and eventually the win despite one of the most entertaining games the Portland Trail Blazers (24-28) have put up all season. The Blazers announced before the game that All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge did not make the trip and was out with a sore elbow which meant that J.J. Hickson would further see more playing time. At the end of this game, the Sacramento Kings must be shaking their heads in disgust as to why they thought letting Hickson go was such a good idea, he and the rest of the Blazers matched the Clippers throughout most of the game, Portland would go up as high as ten points and bite the heels of the Clippers late, both teams hitting each other like pro boxers. Los Angeles would end up getting the tight 98-97 win after Wesley Matthews drives for a floater with 5.0 seconds left and is appeared to be hit on the arm by Blake Griffin, but it ends up as a no call and a fantastic night from Hickson ends in frustration.

From the start it wasn’t looking good for Portland, their defense like it has been at the start of games was sluggish as was their offense, hitting 2-7 and watching Griffin soar for alley-oop dunks. The Blazers would still not falter and slowly improve their shooting percentage, Nicolas Batum was good to get his open shot as did Wesley Matthews. The real fun came when the Blazers bench came in, Luke Babbitt and Jonny Flynn keyed a very important 15-0 run, Babbitt would connect for more open threes and suddenly the Staples Center was quiet and the fans were sitting on their hands. Batum’s three in the corner would extend the lead to as big as ten. The Clippers bench would succumb to lazy turnovers and terrible shot selections by Nick Young and Kenyon Martin, forcing head coach Vinny del Negro to quickly put in his starters to stop the bleeding. And it worked, Randy Foye would laser in two big time threes and the game was tied once again. Throughout all of this Hickson was simply everywhere and he supplied Portland’s own highlight reels of dunking on DeAndre Jordan and an absolute SLAM off a Flynn alley-oop from past half court. Hickson has hops! Los Angeles still managed to keep a small three-point lead as Chris Paul’s lay up at the buzzer for the 46-43 lead at halftime.

The Clippers took the third quarter and opened hitting a handful of threes, more by Foye and one by Paul and they’re suddenly up by nine and the Staples Center is pumping. Hickson meanwhile is keeping Portland right in the mix, driving inside against Griffin, finding Jamal Crawford in the corner for an open three and can even hit the jump shot, as Flynn also did some nice work as he hit Hasheem Thabeet for another sweet alley-oop dunk. Portland would cut the lead on a five-point possession from Batum and more work and hustle by Hickson literally scored six straight points inside and was inching closer to surpassing his career high in points. The fourth quarter was a nail biter throughout as both teams traded blows and leads as Portland would only get as high as three as did Los Angeles. As time got closer, Hickson would add-on more points and slam dunks as did Batum, Raymond Felton would hit a three and managed to keep Paul from grabbing a few late steals. Jamal Crawford who had one of his better games as of late hits a very tough jump shot over Caron Butler and the Blazers are brimming with confidence.

Los Angeles takes a timeout and sets their game-winning play of Paul driving inside and leaving 5.0 seconds for Portland to get their lost shot off. It wasn’t that Matthews took a wild or desperation shot, it’s one that Blazer fans have always seen him do and it looked so good, he finds an opening in the paint and with Griffin and Jordan following him, he puts up a small floater with the left hand, replay shows both Griffin and Jordan hitting Matthew’s elbow and forcing the ball a foot away from the rim. As he stood in shock demanding an explanation from the referees, the Staples Center erupts in cheer and there’s nothing else Portland could do.

From this game mark my words, J.J. Hickson will be the talk of the town as he came in for a missing LaMarcus Aldridge and put up monstrous numbers and made Mike and Mike giddy with excitement. He was a freak of nature who’s only flaw was his free throw shooting. Aside from five dunks he collected a team and new season high 29 Pts, 13 Reb, 2 Ast on 13-19 shooting all in the paint. Behind him was Nicolas Batum who had trouble early in the game as he was chased by Butler but got comfortable as the game went on for 18 Pts, 6 Reb and 2 Ast. Poor Wesley Matthews must be so frustrated tonight, he had 12 Pts and had that chance to be the late game hero. Raymond Felton dished 8 Ast for 9 Pts and 3-9 from three. Jamal Crawford leads the bench with 14 Pts, 3 Ast and 2-3 from downtown on 5-12 shooting, which actually is one of his best shooting games as of late.

Every starter for the Clippers scored in double figures as they are fighting to climb higher in the Western standings. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Randy Foye combine for 60 points as they score 20 points each, Paul dished 14 assists, Griffin pulled down 13 rebounds and Foye was 5-10 from three.

  • Points in the paint: LAC 46, POR 44
  • Fast break points: LAC 12, POR 17 (tons of highlights off the fast break and a great job for the Blazers keeping “Lob City” a bit contained)
  • Shooting percentage: LAC 52%, POR 50% (another great stat for the Blazers, they started shooting from the mid 30’s and improved greatly after halftime)
  • Both teams hit 8 threes
  • Rebounds: LAC 31, POR 36 (thanks to J.J. Hickson)
  • Assists: LAC 26, POR 24
  • Blocks LAC 6, POR 1 (DeAndre Jordan swatted away 4 of those)
  • Turnovers: LAC 13, POR 12
  • Bench scoring: LAC 14, POR 28 (Luke Babbitt for 8 points and 2-4 from three and stood his ground against Griffin and other guys he was forced to guard as everyone else is bigger than him)

As shown, both teams were seemingly even as this was one hell of an exciting game, as much as it hurts to watch such an effort from Hickson and Matthews end with a bad flavor in our mouth, it just shows that Portland will not give up in tight situations as their playoff hopes dim as the games go on. Hopefully LaMarcus Aldridge will be able to suit up for Sunday’s game back at the Rose Garden against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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