(The Sports Xchange) - Guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 59 points to lift the Portland Trail Blazers past the Los Angeles Clippers 96-88 Saturday night at the Moda Center.
Lillard scored 32 points and McCollum added 27 for the Trail Blazers, who sliced the Clippers’ lead in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series to 2-1.
Center Mason Plumlee contributed six points and career playoff highs in rebounds (21) and assists (nine) for Portland, which plays host to Game 4 Monday night.
Chris Paul scored 26 points and dished out nine assists for the Clippers, who also got 19 points from Jamal Crawford and 11 points and 16 rebounds from DeAndre Jordan.
McCollum (17) and Lillard (16) combined for 33 points as Portland seized a 49-40 lead at intermission. Paul had 13 points and six assists for the Clippers, who shot only 38.3 percent from the field in the half.
The Clippers closed the gap to 59-58 midway through the third quarter, and the Blazers settled for a 70-67 advantage heading into the final period.
Austin Rivers’ fast-break layup gave the Clippers a 78-77 lead with 6:26 to go. The Blazers battled back to go ahead 81-78, but the Clippers regained the lead at 82-81 on Paul’s jumper with 4:25 left. Crawford followed with a three-point play to increase the margin to 85-81 with 3:52 remaining.
The Blazers answered with an 8-0 run.
McCollum drew Portland within 85-84 on a 3-pointer with 3:31 to play. Lillard hit a runner to push the Blazers back ahead 86-85 with 2:42 to go. Jordan missed four straight free throws, and Mo Harkless converted a layup to up the lead to 88-85 with 2:02 left. McCollum sank one of two at the line to make it 89-85 with 1:19 remaining.
Jordan made one of two free throws to cut it to 89-86 with 1:15 left, but Mo Harkless scored on a rebound dunk to hike the difference to 91-86 with 55.8 seconds to go.
Plumlee made one of two at the line to make it 92-86 with 45.9 seconds to play, and Lillard wrapped it up with a pair of foul shots with 23.4 ticks left.
Both teams had shaky starts offensively. The score was 8-8 midway through the first quarter when the Blazers went on a 9-2 run to go in front 17-10. The Clippers responded with a 9-0 spurt to go ahead 19-17. The Blazers took a 22-19 lead into the second quarter, with Lillard accounting for 12 points.
Portland extended its advantage to 36-26 as McCollum got hot with eight quick points in the quarter.
Al-Farouq Aminu’s 3-pointer upped the ante to 49-38 late in the quarter. It was a nine-point edge at the half, with the Clippers shooting just 38.3 percent from the field.
Editing by Peter Rutherford