LOS ANGELES (AP) — The preseason is concluded. Is your team ready for the regular season?
Based on Friday, the Portland Trail Blazers would say yes; the Los Angeles Clippers, not so much.
Damian Lillard scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half, and the bench held off a fourth-quarter rally as the Trail Blazers finished their exhibition schedule with a 99-89 victory Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Lillard scored seven points in Portland’s 17-4 first-period run to take a 25-16 lead with 3:08 left. He also scored his team’s final seven points for a 54-46 halftime lead for the Trail Blazers (4-3).
In the fourth quarter, the Clippers bench, led by Jared Cunningham’s 10 points and Hedo Turkoglu’s eight points, cut an 89-76 deficit to 89-86 with 2:36 to play. A C.J. Wilcox basket made it 93-89 with 1:08 to play, but Portland’s Will Barton answered with 43.8 seconds to play. CJ McCollum made two free throws with 28.1 seconds to play, then stole the ball and dunked for a 10-point lead.
This is the kind of play Portland coach Terry Stotts expects.
“I liked our defense the most,” Stotts said. “Particularly in the first half, but throughout the game, to limit their transition points, to limit their attempts at the rim, their points in the paint. . Defensively, I thought (we were) as solid as we’ve been all preseason.”
Meyers Leonard scored nine of Portland’s first 12 points in the second quarter to get out to a 40-30 lead with 6:29 left in the first half. He finished with 14 points. Wesley Matthews scored eight of his 10 in the third quarter, and Joel Freeland scored 10 points off the bench.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Portland should not be overlooked in the Western Conference.
“Portland is a team where we want to go, they want to go,” he said. “We’ve got to go through them, and they’ve got to go through us.”
Blake Griffin scored 21 points in three quarters, including 17 in the first half, for Los Angeles (2-6). The Clippers held an opponent to less than 100 points for the first time this preseason.
“We need to play better,” Rivers said. “It wasn’t about the way we played in the preseason. It is just about where we are going. We talked about the 82 games and how hard it will be playing in the Western Conference. Every night will be a hard night.”
J.J. Redick added 14 points, Chris Paul had eight points and 11 assists, and DeAndre Jordan had nine rebounds for the Clippers.
Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t play (coach’s decision) to rest his groin . Portland swept the two-game exhibition series for the first time since 1997. . Victor Claver was called for a defensive-three-seconds technical in the fourth quarter.
Clippers: Rivers held out Jamal Crawford to rest his hamstring. Glen Davis also didn’t play (groin). Redick and Jordan received first-half technical fouls. The bench received one in the second half. . Matt Barnes made 3 of 8 field-goal attempts to finish the preseason 6 of 44 (13.6 percent).
Portland opens the regular season at Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Clippers open the regular season at home against Oklahoma City on Thursday.
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