Now that Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard appears to be easing into a comfort zone with new head coach Chauncey Billups, an early opportunity at revenge could be forthcoming.
The Trail Blazers will play host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, four days after they were throttled 116-86 on the road by their Western Conference rival in a game that was never competitive. The Clippers led by 14 after the first quarter and forced 30 turnovers in the contest while rolling to their only victory so far this season.
Lillard had just 12 points in the game on 4 of 15 shooting, while also missing all eight of his attempts from 3-point range. It left the six-time All-Star at 17.0 points per game through the first three contests of the season, while also shooting a miserable 8.3 percent from 3-point range.
Lillard and the Trail Blazers rebounded Wednesday, though, with a convincing 116-96 victory at home over the Memphis Grizzlies. Lillard had 20 points with 10 assists in that one while making four of his 11 3-point attempts. CJ McCollum led the team with 25 points.
“When you’re in a stretch like I am shooting the ball, I think it’s important to jump into it, get more aggressive and get yourself out of it,” said Lillard, who had 11 points in the third quarter alone and made three 3-pointers. “That’s kind of where I got to in the third. It’s not going to be a good shooting night but I’m going to find something.”
Portland outscored Memphis 65-39 in the second half, giving the team momentum into Friday’s matchup with the Clippers. Billups, an assistant coach with the Clippers last season, is no doubt looking forward to a second chance at his former team following Monday’s “embarrassing” defeat.
“I think that this is the level that we could play at, I really do,” Billups said of the victory over the Grizzlies. “… If we get stops, we can get out and run. We can be a really, really good basketball team when we play the right way.”
While the victory over the Blazers was promising, the Clippers remain desperate to deliver a better brand of basketball.
They have lost three times in four games, the most recent Wednesday at home in a 92-79 setback to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Clippers scored just 14 points in the opening quarter, while shooting 19 percent from the field (4 of 21), with eight turnovers, and never recovered.
“We’ve gotta get back to playing the right way,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “You can take losing the game if you play the right way and I just didn’t think we did.”
Without Kawhi Leonard (knee), the Clippers are struggling to find an identity. Paul George has averaged 24.0 points with 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals, while Reggie Jackson is scoring 15.5 per game, but the team entered play Thursday 24th in the NBA in field-goal percentage (42.7) and 26th in 3-point percentage (30.7).
Against the Cavaliers, George had just 12 points and did not make any of his eight 3-point attempts.
“After a night like this, the only way is to get better,” George said.
–Field Level Media