Three Takeaways from Portland's 125-104 Victory Over the Clippers
The Portland Trail Blazers picked up a solid win on Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Clippers, pulling away late for a 125-104 victory.
Fans and media members alike entered the game readying their set-pieces for a monumental night from Damian Lillard, as he started the game just 23 points away from passing former Blazer LaMarcus Aldridge for the 2nd most points in Trailblazers history.
Instead, his wingman CJ McCollum stole the show, erupting for 35 points, 23 of which came in the fourth quarter.
The win was important for several reasons, moving into a tie for 4th place in the West among them. Here are our three biggest takeaways from the game.
Christian James Loves his Cleveland Browns
It was reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter late on Tuesday afternoon that the Cleveland Browns had traded for star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
CJ McCollum, who is a life-long Browns fan, was excited to say the least.
CJ McCollum on Twitter
“I’m lit 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙌🏾 welcome bruh bruh @obj #DawgPound I’ll see y’all on turf on me @God_Son80”
For the first 24 minutes of the game, it seemed that McCollum was almost hungover from the news; we was 0-7 from the field with 2 points until knocking down a 3 just before the half ended. During the break, he must have taken a look at the Browns depth chart and gotten another burst of energy.
In the second half, CJ exploded, and that's an understatement. After an encouraging nine points in the third quarter, McCollum poured in 23 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter on 7-8 shooting.
#RingerNBA on Twitter
“The @CJMcCollum takeover (21 points in the 4th). #RipCity 📼 @NBA https://t.co/Gc148Xuaql”
The Blazers were unable to shake free of the Clippers for most of the game, but CJ's offensive outburst was able to put them out ahead far enough to get Gary Trent Jr. and Skal Labissierre some minutes. What a team player.
Dame's Day Will Come
Don't get me wrong -- Lillard has had plenty of nights. Tonight was just not his.
Coming into the game, No. 0 had a chance to make history by jumping ahead of his old running mate in the record books. He needed just 23 points to climb the list of Blazers all-time scoring leaders, bumping down San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge, who happened to bring up the possibility of reuniting with Dame in the future (that's a story for another time).
SportsGrind on Twitter
“LaMarcus Aldridge says he's going back to Portland Trailblazers at some point to play with Damian Lillard via @jwquick The Athletic article”
Lillard had 18 points by the end of the third quarter, and media members around the arena were typing up their tweets, getting ready to shower the all-star with accolades and glory. Instead, Dame finished the game with 20, though he tied his season-high in assists with 12.
Save those tweets to drafts. You'll likely be sending them soon.
Blazers Stay in Driver’s Seat in Western Standings
The win on Tuesday night moved Portland into a tie for 4th in the West with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
A series sweep gives OKC a tiebreaker over the Blazers, but that won't matter until the standings are set at the end of the regular season. What matters most is that the Portland didn't give up any ground to the Clippers.
Coming into the game, the Blazers were alone in 5th place, 1.5 games back of the Houston Rockets in 3rd place, and 3.5 games ahead of the Clippers in 7th place. On any given night for the rest of the season, the outcome of every game will have ripple effects in the playoff picture for the west.
Portland has a legitimate shot to steal home-court advantage in the playoffs by finishing as a top-4 seed, as they hold the third-easiest strength of schedule among active playoff teams in the west. OKC has a grueling SOS ahead of them, and is likely to drop down a spot or two by the end of the season.
Once March comes around, every game holds importance. The Blazers remain in the drivers seat with 15 games left on the schedule.