Nicolas Batum
Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum (88) shoots against the defense of Los Angeles Clippers forward Hedo Turkoglu (15) during the first half at Staples Center. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – The Portland Trail Blazers stunned the Los Angeles Clippers 98-93 in overtime after coming back from a 10-point deficit with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Nicolas Batum led the comeback with a wide-open three pointer to send the game into extra time, followed by three alley-oop passes and the game clincher from downtown with less than 20 seconds to play in the game. In all, Batum either scored or assisted on the final 19 points of the game for Portland.

“We’ve come back from a lout of double-digit deficits this year, and that was another one,” said Portland Trail Blazers head coach, Terry Stotts. “I can’t say enough about how our guys keep competing and we never think we’re out of it.”

It was a playoff atmosphere at Staples Center on Wednesday as fans in attendance got to see a potential first round playoff matchup between Portland and Los Angeles.

The game featured a pair of All-Star point guards battling for Western Conference supremacy. Chris Paul outplayed Damian Lillard, finishing with 36 points and 12 assists while keeping Lillard in check with just five points and five turnovers. Lillard was just 1 for 13 from the field with his only basket coming in overtime off the Batum lob. Lillard found a way to contribute in other ways however as he had a career-high 18 rebounds.

“Everybody was calling me Dennis Rodman,” said Lillard about his rebounding performance. “I wasn’t scoring the ball. Somebody else had it going. I was trying to play defense with energy, move around the court and stay active on the glass so that they wouldn’t keep getting second and third opportunities.”

Paul and J.J. Redick combined for a total of 62 points, over two-thirds of the team’s total on the night. Redick finished with 26 points and four three-pointers as the undermanned Clippers were without Blake Griffin (staph infection), Jamal Crawford (calf injury) and Matt Barnes (hamstring).

“We deserved to win,” said Redick after the game. “When you feel like you deserved to win, losses like that are extremely frustrating.”

Despite the tremendous battle in the backcourt, the game was decided primarily in the frontcourt where All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge put the Trail Blazers on his back for the most of the game. Aldridge finished with a team-high 29 points and added 9 rebounds, while defensively outdueling Clippers center DeAndre Jordan who was held to just 6 points.

Like Lillard, Jordan was able to contribute on the glass as he finished with a game-high 19 rebounds. With 4:06 left to play in the game, and Portland down nine, the team resorted to the abhorred “Hack-A-DJ” strategy as they intentionally fouled the Clippers big man on three consecutive possessions down the stretch. The tactics worked as Jordan missed all six free-throw attempts and tied the game with Batum’s three with 25 seconds left in regulation.

“Tonight was a tough loss,” said a somber Jordan after the game. “We had our chances. It was a tough game. We will be ready for the next one.”

Paul thought he won it in the final second of regulation as his jump shot kissed off the glass and rattled around the rim as the horn went off. The shot eventually rimmed out and the game went to overtime.

But it was Batum who broke the hearts of Clippers fans in overtime. His three-pointer with just over 20 seconds left, gave the Trail Blazers a 5-point lead and the Clippers would not get any closer.

Portland is now in the drivers seat to secure their first Northwest Division title in team history. They have won four consecutive games and appear to be firmly locked into the third seed in the Western Conference.

Game Notes:
Former Oregon Ducks quarterback, Marcus Mariota, sat courtside during the game. Mariota is projected to be a top 5 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes were all inactive for the Clippers.

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