LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Clippers won the two middle quarters against the Portland Trail Blazers in the team’s regular season opening basketball game played at Crypto.com Arena.
With Paul George dominating the second quarter with 12 points and Kawhi Leonard dropping 13 points in the third period, the Clippers were able to roll to a 123-111 win against the visiting Trail Blazers.
The key to the game, though, was how fast of a start the Clippers got off to against Portland. It all started on the defensive end with the Clippers holding the Trail Blazers to 34 percent shooting in the first quarter to lead 29-20 at the end of the period.
While struggled from the field, connecting on just 8 of its 23 field attempts, the Clippers made half of their shots from the field (12 of 24). After the game, George, who scored a team-high 27 points, talked about the importance of the team getting off to a fast start.
“I just thought that we played with pace, energy and I thought our intensity was there, which allowed us to get opportunities to attack the basket,” George said. “Offense we didn’t really walk through stuff. Everything was hard, fast cuts, quick movements and quick reads for the majority of the game, which if we play like that we are going to be tough to beat.”
PG WITH AUTHORITY! pic.twitter.com/p7NBjrtKus— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) October 26, 2023
Portland head coach Chauncey Billups didn’t like the effort from his team early in the game.
“It was a rough go from the very beginning, literally from the very beginning,” Billups said. “We turned it over on the first play of the game, and just never really settled in. I just didn’t feel like we challenged them enough. That’s a good team, a good team that’s gonna be competing for a championship this year. We just didn’t challenge them enough in my opinion. We never really got settled in. I think their pressure hurt us, turned us over. The rebounding really hurt us, so it was an uphill climb the whole game.”
For the first three quarters, the Clippers didn’t allow Portland to score more than 27 points in a period while widening their lead. The Clippers outscored the Trail Blazers 29-20 in the first quarter and held a 38-27 scoring advantage in the second period to go into halftime with a 67-47 lead.
The Clippers managed to extend their lead by the end of the third quarter after outscoring Portland, 32-26. For Leonard, who finished the game with 23 points and six assists in the Clippers’ win, the team’s first victory of the season was more than playing defense. It was coming out and then sustaining a certain type of energy, he said.
“I think we just have to step out on the floor and show an example that we are engaged and locked in from the beginning,” Leonard said. “That’s with guarding the best player or if you are on the weak side communicating and pretty much letting guys know the spots to be in when we are out on the bench watching the game. So yeah it can translate over to everyone else and it can carry it over.”
Defensively, the Clippers put the clamps on Scoot Henderson, the Portland rookie who was selected by the Trail Blazers with the No. 3 overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. In just over 35 minutes of playing time, Henderson turned the ball over four times and finished the game making just 5 of 11 shots from the field for a total of 11 points.
Paul liked the focus and overall effort the Clippers put into playing defense.
“That’s how we have to play,” said George. “That’s who we have to play. It’s not going to be perfect like this every night, but I think our approach has to mock this. We have to play with this intensity and just rely and count on each other. It’s not going to be perfect, it’s not going to be great, but I thought tonight we had some things we have to work on, but for the most part guys had each other’s backs. We just have to be athletes, use our hands, use our quickness, just use our instincts of finding where the ball is and sniffing it out and getting out on breaks. That is when we are at our best.”
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