The Portland Trail Blazers are on their longest losing streak in a few years but things might set up for them nicely to end that skid Friday at home against the Clippers. Free NBA pick here.
Clippers Can't Finish Warriors Again
The Los Angeles Clippers (6-5) could have two wins already over the unbeaten Golden State Warriors but they just can't hold a lead against the defending NBA champs. Earlier this season in Oakland, the Clips blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss. Thursday night was much worse. The Clippers led by 23 points in the first half and by 10 with just five minutes remaining in the game.
But the Warriors hit 8-for-9 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter, were 11-for-15 from the field overall in the quarter, 9-for-10 from the free-throw line and outrebounded the Clippers 11-6. The Warriors scored on every possession they had in the final 5:50 while the Clippers were only 8-for-22 in the quarter. L.A. superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were a combined 3-for-12 in the fourth quarter; they were 21-of-31 from the field in the first three quarters.
Final score: Warriors win 124-117.
The 23-point lead was the largest blown in the NBA this season in a loss. Paul wasn't even expected to play after missing the previous two games with a sore right groin but finished with a season-high 35 points. Wouldn't shock me if he sat this one out. Backcourt mate J.J. Redick missed his third straight game with back spasms so don't look for him here.
The Clippers are 4-7 against the spread on NBA odds and 8-3 'over/under.'
Portland Good For 3 Quarters, Then ....
Portland (4-9) overachieved a bit the first week or so of the season with a 4-2 start but it has since dropped seven in a row, the team's longest losing streak since the 2012-13 team quit at the end of that season and lost its final 13 games.
No loss was tougher to swallow for the Blazers than Wednesday's 108-103 overtime defeat in Houston, the Rockets' first game after the surprise firing of head coach Kevin McHale. Houston seemed blindsided by the move because the team played terribly to start Wednesday's game. The Blazers led by as many as 17 points, including 15 early in the fourth quarter. And they were still ahead 96-89 when Damian Lillard hit two free throws with a minute left. But then the wheels fell off.
With Portland up 99-96 following two Al-Farouq Aminu free throws with 6.6 seconds left, the Blazers knew that Houston would put the ball in star James Harden's hands and they planned to foul Harden before he could get a potential tying 3-pointer off. Except Harden juked away from Allen Crabbe and was able to deliver an off-balance, airborne, cross-court pass to Corey Brewer, who in one running motion threw up a 30-foot one-legged shot that of course swished. The Blazers were dead after that, with Harden scoring all nine of Houston's OT points. The Blazers shot 26 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Blazers have had fourth quarter leads in five of their nine losses, including double-digit leads against the Rockets and Pistons. They have the worst fourth-quarter point differential in the NBA, getting outscored by 15.4 points per 100 possessions. Portland is scoring 95 points per 100 possessions in the fourth and allowing 110.4 per 100 (fourth worst in NBA).
Portland has been without starting forward Meyers Leonard the past four games with a dislocated shoulder and he's not expected to play Friday. The Trail Blazers are 6-7 ATS on NBA picks this season and 8-5 O/U.
The Clippers took three of four. They won both of their games in Portland, the first time Los Angeles won multiple regular-season games there since 2005-06. Despite that, the Blazers have won 11 of the past 17 home games in the series. Portland won the lone game last year when holding the Clippers to under 100 points (98-93 in OT on March 4), but L.A. hit triple digits in its three wins with a high of 126 in the most recent meeting on April 1 in Portland. Blazers leading scorer Damian Lillard really struggled vs. the Clips last year in averaging only 15.8 points and shooting .386 percent.
This is the ultimate definition of a letdown game for the Clippers. Take Portland -- which probably wins outright -- and the 'over.' The Clippers have covered only one of their past six vs. teams with a losing record. Portland is 4-1 ATS in its past five at home vs. teams with a losing road record (Clips 1-3 away). The underdog is 4-0 ATS in the past four meeting. The 'over' is 5-2 in the past seven.
NBA Picks: Trail Blazers +3.5 & Over 210.5 at TheGreek