Portland, Oregon: Portland forward Nicolas Batum notched the second triple-double of his NBA career on Saturday to lead the Trail Blazers to a 101-100 victory over the slumping Los Angeles Clippers.
It was the fourth defeat in a row for Clippers, matching their worst losing run of the season, and they were clearly feeling the continued absence of Chris Paul, who missed a third successive contest with a bruised right kneecap. He has missed a total of six games this campaign with the same injury.
“Chris is our closer,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Portland’s French import Batum, who posted his first career triple-double in a loss to Washington on Monday, had 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, while Damian Lillard scored another 20 points for the Trail Blazers, who have won two in a row after a six-game slide.
The Clippers, who had won 24 of 27 contests before their current slump, appeared to have turned the tide when a Lamar Odom dunk gave them a 100-91 lead with 2:38 remaining. But Portland closed out the contest with 10 unanswered points.
“We’ve got to learn from it,” Del Negro said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow. We had an opportunity to steal this one, and we couldn’t convert down the stretch.”
Jamal Crawford had a last chance to get the win for Los Angeles, but his jump shot over Batum bounced off the rim.
“I’ll take that shot 10 times out of 10, and I’ll make it nine times out of 10,” Crawford said. “That’s just the one I missed.”
The Clippers will not have to wait long for their chance to avenge the defeat as they host the Trail Blazers in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Paul was not expected to be back, but Del Negro said his team needs to learn to win without him.
“We’ve got to learn with this group to finish games,” Del Negro said. “This was an opportunity to finish the game... Not converting down the stretch is what it’s all about.”