Winless Clippers out to tame Trail Blazers

NBA

The Los Angeles Clippers are still searching for their first win of the season as they host the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

The Clippers have had to dig themselves out of double-digit deficits in both losses, exerting a lot of energy to get back into the game, only to fall short in the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles trailed by as many as 19 points in a season-opening, 115-113 setback on the road to the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers fell behind by as many as 16 points in a 120-114 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies over the weekend.

The Clippers are still trying to figure out how to make up for the loss of superstar Kawhi Leonard, who remains out indefinitely as he rehabs from an ACL tear in his right knee suffered during the playoffs last June.

Paul George has carried the scoring load for the Clippers offensively, averaging 35 points a contest through the first two games. But he needs some help from his teammates.

“I’m happy we fought, but that can’t be who we are,” George said after the loss to the Grizzlies. “We’ve got to come in, we’ve got to do our job. We’ve got to win games.

“With that, though, we have to play hard. So, I know it was a moral victory in Golden State, but (against Memphis), we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to come out first, establish who we are. Playing hard should be a given. We’ve got to win games.”

New Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups earned his first victory as a head coach in a 134-105 runaway win over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

CJ McCollum paced Portland with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field, while Damian Lillard added 19 points and eight assists.

“That was an incredible win for us today,” Billups said afterward. “Things came together. We just played extremely hard on the defensive end, and we finally started getting some shots to go.

“Nowadays when you get shots to go, it helps the defense. If people are playing with confidence, everybody’s kind of getting and moving the ball, sharing the ball. There were times out there when it looked like we may have had six guys on the floor.”

After going 1-1 in two home games at the Moda Center, the Trail Blazers will return to the Rose City to host Memphis on Wednesday and face the Clippers again in Portland on Friday.

After early exits in the postseason the past two years, McCollum was asked if the way Portland is playing at the start of the year could lead to sustainable success during the regular season and playoffs.

“I hope so,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to build on, a lot that we still need to work on and get more comfortable with. But as the season goes on, there will be great nights like (Saturday), then there will be nights that we don’t execute as well.

“But I think all and all, you want to string as many good games together as possible and just be playing the right way heading into April. And I think we can do that.”

Portland’s Norman Powell exited with a left knee injury on Saturday and will miss Monday’s game. Tony Snell (foot) will also sit out the contest.

–Field Level Media

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