Gross. Chris Paul—the Clippers' best player, the young Point God become tortured Point Man, a force for tremendous sports hate in yours and everyone's heart—broke his hand on a jersey. There's video. It's completely non-gruesome, a reminder that no matter what's happening on the outside, there are thousands of parts and pieces and notches in your body that are ready to fail without anyone noticing at any time.
There's no way around it, man: The Blazers' chances of winning this series increased dramatically tonight. Doc Rivers will have to replace some of the NBA's highest-end production with that of Jamal Crawford (unpredictable, at best), Austin Rivers (existential pit), J.J. Redick (like a C- dribbler) and Pablo Prigioni (extremely cool, probably an upgrade). The Blazers, assuming replacement-level effort, should be able to tighten the screws on this collection of maleficent dribblemen.
But this advantage came at the cost—charged to the Clippers by no person less important than Fate Herself—of a great truly basketball player's health and ambition. Just yesterday, in this same space, I said that Paul was "perfectly noxious and dissectable," a wonderful avatar for an arena full of people to sling boos and mean internet content at. But the second a human being gets all snapped in half, the basketball-playing abstraction everyone likes to trash on the web is transfigured into Chris Paul, Actual Flesh-Based Human Being, gifted and cursed in equal measure. Watching Paul get hoodwinked, throwing his hands in the air, berating refs until he gets thrown out, making exhausted glances at his collapsing teammates, Doce tie getting looser and looser, his shirt progressively more untucked, would have been great. But watching him look like he's on the verge of tears sitting on a bench is fucking bullshit.
And so, the proper thing to do now would be to suck it up and root against the Blazers. To root for them now is to root for the providence of the human body's collapse. You want the injury to win. But you and I (I want to Blazers to win, sorry, bad journalist), Blazer fans, have to sit there and cheer for the Blazers, because rooting for the team you like to lose isn't any way to go about your day. And so, you'll move on, with the icky sensation that your team has been given a gutter-bumper aisle to the next round just because they were handed a gift from the Satanic Gods of Injury and Death, trying to convince yourself that they still deserved it, they definitely did!
Aside from the Clippers' two best players getting injured—Blake Griffin has a quad problem that flared up—the game was not drastically different from the last one. The Clippers were thoroughly pushed to the three-point line and settled for homemade three-pointers over and over again. Mason Plumlee, nine assists last time out, had 10 tonight, many of which came from him rolling to the rim, catching a pass, then shuttling the pass to a corner three-point shooter in the corner or a baseline cutter for an open dunk.
Aminu scored 31 points and hit like a billion threes after hitting negative 1 billion in the first three games. The Clippers have let him shoot unabated for the whole series, banking on pressure and chance to regress him back to his pre 2015-16 tendency. Like all things, it worked until it didn't. Stotts should be singled out for praise here. A less disciplined coach would have panicked and shortened his minutes or convinced him to move away from what worked all year just because the context is different. But he and Aminu stayed on track, let the shots go in or not, didn't melt down, and they were rewarded. It's not "ALWAYS ABOUT ADJUSTMENTS IN THE PLAYOFFS, ONLY THE STRONG AND INVOLVED COACHES CAN SURVIVE THIS GAUNTLET." Sometimes it's just about letting yourself progress to your mean. Apply this to your work life. Accept Terry's gifts.
The Blazers' bench finally cleaned the clock of the Clippers' bench in the unit's second-half meeting, which features CJ McCollum putting Austin Rivers at the bottom of a sweet three-point step-back and Allen Crabbe making a pair of long twos. Watching the ways these two bench units play in contrast is so fascinating. The Clippers don't have enough talent on the floor, so they defer to Crawford or whoever else has the ball and hopes they can kill the clock for a while and take a shot that goes in. The Blazers, on the other hand, handle their lack of talent by passing the ball around the perimeter while never establishing a credible driving threat to misdirect the defense. Which problem would you rather have?
Going forward, the Clippers will probably run more of their offense through Blake, an underrated playmaker whose gifts are occasionally overlooked because of CP3's gigantic workload— assuming, of course, he isn't also headed for a lengthy stint on the DL. If that is the case, this is going to get extremely weird in some way or another, so prepare yourself emotionally for that terrible moment.