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Clippers get off to fast start in win over Blazers

Powered by the hot shooting of talented swingman Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, 133-116, on Tuesday, April 6 (Wednesday, April 7, Manila time) at the Staples Center.

George scored 24 of his game-high 36 points in the first half, as the Clippers led by as many as 26 points in the opening half.

"I just felt good," said George, who has been dealing with a lingering foot issue. "My foot felt good today. I felt explosive. I just came out trying to attack, come out score and finish."

Los Angeles upped its record to 4-2 on the team's nine-game homestand. The Clippers started the game making their first nine shots. LA also got a boost from the return of point guard Patrick Beverley to the starting lineup. 

Beverley – who had been out since March 11, missing 12 games with right knee soreness – finished with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal in 20 minutes of work. 

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue had Beverley on a minutes restriction in his first game back from injury.

Kawhi Leonard had a solid, all-around game, finishing with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. 

Reggie Jackson added 23 points off the bench for the Clippers, who outscored Portland's bench 44-21.

The Clippers signed versatile big man DeMarcus Cousins – recently released by the Houston Rockets – to a 10-day contract, giving LA some size up front with Serge Ibaka still nursing a lower back injury. Cousins was at the game and played, finishing with 7 points and 4 rebounds.

While the Clippers led big early, the Blazers chipped away at LA's lead and only trailed 73-66 at the half. Portland used the free-throw line to work back into the game, with the Blazers making 16-of-21 shots from the line in the first half.

Norman Powell paced the Blazers with 32 points. CJ McCollum added 24 points, while Robert Covington finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds for Portland.

However, the Clippers did a good job defensively of keeping Damian Lillard from getting to the basket. Lillard shot just 2-for-14 from the field and finished with just 11 points.

Showing his frustration, Lillard received a technical foul for arguing a non-call on a drive to the basket.

"Dame is always an MVP candidate in my eyes because of the things he does, the things he brings every single night," Lue said. "He plays every single night. He wants to play and he wants to compete. He's one of the top players in the league."

The Blazers managed to cut LA's advantage to two points midway through the third quarter but would not get any closer the rest of the way and the Clippers upped their lead back to double digits in the fourth and led comfortably the rest of the game.

The Blazers had to play without Jusuf Nurkic, who experienced right knee inflammation after playing in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. 

Enes Kanter started in place of Nurkic, finishing with 13 points and 15 rebounds.

Nurkic attended the game and was on the bench for the Blazers.

With the road loss, the Blazers now travel to Utah to face the Jazz on Thursday and then return to Portland for three home games against the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. – Rappler.com