Playing their first game away from Staples Center this season and the only one they'll play outside of Los Angeles until Nov. 19, the Los Angeles Clippers looked right at home in Portland on Thursday night.
The Clippers jumped out to a 25-point first-half lead on the Trail Blazers during a 103-90 victory, seemingly carrying over their performance from the night before when they beat the San Antonio Spurs by 22 points after compiling a 28-point lead in that game.
The second half against Portland, however, would not be as easy as it was the previous night against San Antonio. The Trail Blazers outscored the Clippers 32-17 in the third quarter and got to within four points late in the fourth quarter. The Clippers finally pulled away to win, claiming their first road win this season beyond Staples Center and improving their record to 4-2 on the season.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
For all the talk about the new additions the Clippers made in the offseason, perhaps no addition was bigger than the new and improved DeAndre Jordan. Just 24 hours after scoring 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds against the Spurs, Jordan scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds against Portland. It was probably the best back-to-back games Jordan has had in the NBA and showed how much he has grown this season after working with a shooting coach in the offseason to not only improve his free throws (he hit 5-of-7 on Thursday) but also his game in the post. No one was more impressed with Jordan's performance than TNT's Shaquille O'Neal, who decided during Thursday's broadcast to give the Clippers center high praise while also taking a veiled jab at Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard. "I'm going on the record right now," O'Neal said. "Best center in the West right now, DeAndre Jordan. Best center in the West."
Everyone talks about the depth of the Clippers this season but sometimes their numbers are startling. In the first half against the Blazers, the Clippers' lead ballooned from seven points in the first quarter to 25 points in the second quarter with the second unit sparking a 22-2 run. Jamal Crawford, who finished with a game-high 25 points, scored 10 of those 22 points during the run. Amazingly, the Clippers were able to jump out to such a big lead despite starters Blake Griffin and Caron Butler combining for only five points on two baskets. In fact, Jordan and Griffin played about only two minutes of the second quarter, when the Clippers outscored the Blazers 31-17.
Consistency and energy
It's natural for a team that jumps out to 25-point first-half lead to let up a little in the third quarter, but the Clippers getting outscored 32-17 by the Blazers was worse than expected and the only real blemish in an otherwise solid game. After the Blazers pulled to within four points, the Clippers went on a 14-3 run led by Chris Paul, who finished with 21 points and six assists, to put the game away. The other sore spot for the Clippers is the play of Lamar Odom, who missed both of his attempts and finished with no points and no assists and two rebounds in just six minutes. The night before against San Antonio, Odom missed all three of his attempts and finished with no points and just two rebounds in nine minutes. Odom is still clearly dealing with conditioning issues and knee pain, and has easily been the least productive player on an otherwise deep team.