By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were in no hurry to go back into the game. The reserves were rolling and again creating some breathing room.
Paul and Griffin urged coach Doc Rivers to let the second unit keep playing. He agreed, and the bench scored 43 points in the Clippers’ 102-81 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, giving Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in its first-round playoff series.
“Those guys looked like they were in a good rhythm,” said Paul, who led the Clippers with 25 points. “We’ve all been together long enough to know, let them keep rolling, let them keep going until they really need a break. If we come out of the game up six, when we go back in the game, we may be up 10 or up 12. We just need those guys to keep playing with that confidence.”
Jamal Crawford, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, led the reserves with 11 points and Jeff Green added 10 on a night when the Clippers’ starters weren’t their usual dominant selves. The bench opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run, stretching a six-point lead to 15.
“The bench won us the game,” J.J. Redick said. “Defensively, they were great all the way down the line and they each had impact on the game.
Among the starters, Redick scored 17 points, Blake Griffin had 12 points and nine rebounds, and DeAndre Jordan had 18 rebounds for the Clippers, who topped 100 points for the second straight game.
Damian Lillard and Mason Plumlee led the Blazers with 17 points each. CJ McCollum added 16 after being held to nine in their 20-point loss in the series opener. Plumlee and Al-Farouq Aminu had 10 rebounds each. Portland shot a season-worst 34.1 percent.
“Especially at the start of the game, I got a lot of good looks,” Lillard said. “When you get those good looks you’ve got to knock them down, especially in a playoff series like this when they’re trapping and sending two guys.”
Game 3 is Saturday in Portland.
“Going home, everybody will be a little bit more confident,” McCollum said. “Teams usually shoot better at home.”
The Clippers’ bench put the game out of reach in the fourth, stretching a six-point lead to 16 before Redick, Paul and Griffin returned with 7:38 to play. Griffin made his presence felt immediately with a monstrous cutting dunk that roused the crowd.
Los Angeles’ reserves opened the fourth on a 14-4 run. McCollum’s struggles in that stretch were emblematic of the entire game. He turned the ball over and missed a 3-pointer while the Clippers kept converting at their end. Wesley Johnson grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a turnaround jumper, Austin Rivers hit a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and Jamal Crawford benefited from a goaltending call.
“Their bench was effective for them and they did it in different ways,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I thought Austin Rivers’ 3-point shot was a big momentum play. That kind of turned the tide in the fourth quarter.”
The Blazers’ only lead came on the game’s opening basket. They got better production from McCollum (nine points in Game 1) and Plumlee (four points, five rebounds and no assists in Game 1), but were doomed by their shooting.
“We got some good looks, and I got some good-looking shots I didn’t make,” McCollum said. “I had a wide-open 3 in the corner in transition. We’re going to make those shots nine times out of 10. Those are the types of shots we have to make. Moving forward, we will.”
Both teams’ shooting woes continued into the third quarter, when the Clippers led by 12 before Portland closed within three. Each time, the Clippers came up with a basket — Paul dunked and hit a 3-pointer and Jordan dunked to keep Portland at bay, taking a 67-61 lead into the fourth. The Clippers were 9 for 24 and the Blazers were 6 for 24 in the period.
The Clippers opened a 15-point lead early in the second quarter before the Blazers closed on a 24-13 spurt to trail 47-43 at the break. The Clippers’ defense was especially good, with Cole Aldrich, Green and Jordan coming up with big blocks. Portland struggled on 16-of-47 shooting in the half, with Lillard making just two layups.
Trail Blazers: They had four team fouls in the game’s first 1:26. … At 24.89 years of age, they are the youngest team in this year’s playoffs. … They are 76-37 all-time at home in the playoffs, including 37-23 in the first round. … The Blazers fell to 13-5 when playing on two or more days of rest this season.
Clippers: Jordan was called for a loose ball foul on the opening tip. … They improved to 6-7 all-time in Game 2 of a best-of-seven series.
Despite holding the Blazers to a season-low shooting percentage, Rivers thought the Clippers played better defense in Game 1.
“I thought we had a lot of mistakes,” he said. “I just know that there is a better us in there, and that’s my job to try to keep getting it out of us.”
For the third straight year, the Blazers are down 0-2 in a playoff series.
Last year, they trailed Memphis 0-3 before winning their only game in the first round. Two years ago, they trailed the San Antonio 0-3 in the Western Conference semifinals before winning their lone game.
“These first two games are also a part of the growth of this team,” Lillard said. “I’m excited and happy with the way that our team is in a situation like this as far as confidence goes and just being able to move on. We’re a really good home team and we’ll see how it goes from here on.”
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