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The Portland Trail Blazers blew a lead of 14 or more points for the third straight game. This time, they wouldn't be denied a win.
Jarrett Jack tied a season high with 21 points, scoring 13 of them in the fourth quarter and leading the Trail Blazers to an 82-80 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Playing at Staples Center for the second straight night, the Blazers squandered a 38-24 second-quarter advantage a day after frittering away a 15-point lead against in a 96-83 loss to the Lakers and a 17-point margin in Sunday's home loss to Boston.
"We were fortunate tonight," coach Nate McMillan said. "We will take it, but we've just got to grow up and learn how to finish off games, play a full 48 minutes and keep the game simple. The ball just bounced our way down the stretch, but we're not going to give this win back."
Portland is 10th overall in the Western Conference, 41/2 games behind Denver and five behind Golden State for the final seed. The first nine teams are separated by just six games.
Corey Maggette scored 32 points for the Clippers, but missed a potential go-ahead basket with 8 seconds remaining as Portland snapped an eight-game road losing streak against them. Los Angeles shot only 26.7 percent over the first three quarters and finished at a season-worst 31.3 percent.
"I kept telling our guys that our shots would come for us, and that we just had to play our way through it and keep playing hard," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We had to be more aggressive in the third quarter, and we were. It got us back into the game to the point where we took the lead, and we had a chance to win it at the end."
Tim Thomas scored 21 points for the Clippers, including a pair of free throws that capped a 16-3 run and tied it at 45 with 5:28 left in the third. But the Blazers took a 58-57 lead into the fourth on Von Wafer's 3-pointer with a second on the clock. The lead changed hands seven more times before Jack's 3-pointer gave Portland a 75-73 lead with 3:41 to play. Cuttino Mobley responded with a 3-pointer 16 seconds later, after missing eight of his first nine shots.
LaMarcus Aldridge then sank two free throws and added a short baseline hook to give Portland a 79-76 edge with 1:36 left.
After two free throws by Clippers rookie Al Thornton, Jack leaned back and drained a fadeaway 22-footer from the top of the key to give Portland an 81-78 lead. Maggette hit a 13-footer, and the Clippers had a chance to go back in front when Jack missed two free throws with 11.1 seconds to go. But Maggette grazed the rim from 15 feet on a wide-open shot after losing Travis Outlaw.
Wafer made one of two at the other end, and Maggette was way off from 33 feet on an off-balance attempt at a buzzer-beating 3-point shot. Portland improved to 8-2 in games decided by three points or less.
"We got ourselves back in it, but we just didn't execute down the stretch," Thornton said. "We should have won the game."
Thomas, who was counted on to be the Clippers' main 3-point shooting threat, is averaging 31.3 percent after going 3-for-6 behind the arc against Portland. He had a .373 average during his 10 previous NBA seasons.
"He hasn't shot the ball as well from the 3-point line for whatever reason. But he's been scoring for us, he's posting up better than ever and he's rebounding," Dunleavy said. "I mean, he's averaging 13.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 31 minutes. That's pretty good numbers for a guy on a mid-level (salary cap) exemption."
Outlaw, who came off the bench in Portland's first 56 games, made his second straight start in place of the injured Brandon Roy and was 3-for-13 from the field with 10 points after missing eight of his first nine shots. Roy was back in Portland resting his sprained right ankle, which he reaggravated in Sunday's game. The Blazers next play on Friday night at home against the Western Conference-leading Lakers.
The Clippers outscored Portland 28-16 in the third quarter, marking the eighth time in nine games that the Blazers scored fewer than 20 in that period. Portland's Joel Pryzbilla picked up two fouls 64 seconds apart, giving him four for the game and a seat on the bench for the final 10:44 of the quarter.
The win was Portland's first against the Clippers on the road since Dec. 18, 2002, when they erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit behind Scottie Pippen and Rasheed Wallace. ... The Blazers came in averaging a league-worst 30.9 points in the paint, and finished with 22 against the Clippers. ... Eight players on Portland's roster were among the top 10 picks in their respective drafts, including Greg Oden and former Clippers first-round pick Darius Miles, who haven't played this season following microfracture surgery on their right knees.
Jack's 21 points help Trail Blazers outlast Clippers
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