The Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers have met so frequently in the early part of the schedule that it almost seems like a playoff series, with a third meeting set to go down Tuesday in L.A.
After the Trail Blazers were walloped 116-86 at Los Angeles on Oct. 25, they got their revenge in a 111-92 victory over the Clippers at home four days later.
When they meet Tuesday, the West Coast rivals each will be coming off victories. The Trail Blazers earned a 105-90 victory over the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, while the Clippers put together a wild fourth-quarter rally to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 120-106 at home Sunday.
While the Trail Blazers have won consecutive games and are 5-5 through the first three-plus weeks of the season, they still have not won on the road, going 0-4 away from the Pacific Northwest.
Yet the struggle that has drawn the most attention is the slow start from Damian Lillard under new head coach Chauncey Billups. Lillard is shooting just 35.1 percent from the field and 24.7 from 3-point range. He is a career 37.3-percent shooter from distance and never has shot lower than 34.3 percent in a full season.
While Lillard was 0-of-6 from 3-point range in Friday’s win over the Pacers, he rebounded Saturday to go 6-of-14, his most makes from distance in a game this season.
“Just coming out and being more assertive,” said Lillard, who had his most efficient shooting night from distance when he was 5-of-7 in the victory over the Clippers. “Being more aggressive, looking for opportunities and it just went in.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to stick with it and continue to weather the storm. It never ends in one game; it’s putting games together and continuing to fight that fight and keeping your mind right.”
The Clippers are on a four-game winning streak, but only after they used a 22-0 run in the fourth quarter Sunday to rally past the Hornets. The Clippers trailed by nine with seven minutes remaining, then held the Hornets without a field goal for the next six minutes.
Paul George led a balanced attack for the Clippers with 20 points, while Reggie Jackson had 19 and Luke Kennard contributed 18. The Clippers shot 47.6 percent in the fourth quarter to 30.8 for Charlotte and had a 31-19 advantage in the final period.
“We’ve been pretty good defensively, but just offensively is where we struggled to start the year, so I think that’s the biggest improvement,” George said. “We got our legs, I feel like, and guys know what shots they’re going to get up to this point. That’s it. We’ve just been confident shooting our shots.”
Playing without Kawhi Leonard, who is out indefinitely following knee surgery, the Clippers were inconsistent on offense while opening the season 1-4, with that one victory against the Blazers. But following three consecutive games where they were held under 100 points, the Clippers have averaged 116.7 points in their three most recent contests.
“We’re making shots,” said George, who leads the Clippers with 27.0 points per game. “Guys are finding their shots and shooting their shots and the ball is going in.”