LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Rodney McGruder hit a 3-pointer with 26.5 seconds left, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 122-120 on Saturday even with Kawhi Leonard resting on the bench.
Portland had a chance to ensure a play-in for the Western Conference’s final playoff berth and eliminate Sacramento with a win. The Trail Blazers led much of the game, but the NBA’s top-scoring team inside the bubble was outscored 12-5 in the final 96 seconds as Paul George also sat the final five minutes.
George finished with 21 points. Landry Shamet scored 19, Reggie Jackson added 17, Marcus Morris Sr. 15, JaMychal Green 13 and Lou Williams 12.
CJ McCollum led Portland with 29 points, hitting 6 of 13 3s. Gary Trent Jr. also made six 3s and finished with 22 points. Damian Lillard had 22, Carmelo Anthony added 21 and Jusuf Nurkic had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Portland led 115-110 on a free throw by Nurkic with 2:58 left. The Clippers scored five straight, tying it at 115 with 1 minute left on a three-point play by Patrick Patterson. Lillard put Portland up with a driving layup, then McGruder scored from the top of the key with 26.5 seconds left to put the Clippers ahead to stay at 118-117.
Green and Shamet each hit a pair of free throws to protect the Clippers’ lead.
Lillard missed a pair of free throws with 18.6 seconds to go. He also missed a 3 with 9.5 seconds left before McCollum hit a 3 at the buzzer.
Portland led by as much as 10 in the first quarter and was up 37-34 at the end of the quarter. The Clippers took their first lead in the second quarter on a 3 by Landry Shamet at 44-42, but they never led by more than that as Portland was up 75-69 at halftime. Portland also led 96-95 at the end of the third.
Clippers: Outrebounded Portland 45-41. … They also outshot the Trail Blazers outside the arc hitting 15 of 34 (44.1%) compared to 17 of 43 (39.5%).
Trail Blazers: Outscored Los Angeles 46-38 in the paint. … C Hasan Whiteside did not play with a left hip strain. … Nurkic just missed a triple-double with nine assists.
The Trail Blazers had some regional support with Blitz the Seahawk, mascot for the NFLs Seattle Seahawks, sitting in the virtual seats, for the early afternoon game.
Clipper: Play Nets on Sunday.
Trail Blazers: Play Philadelphia on Sunday.
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