Sunday, January 27, 2013

Batum posts triple-double as Blazers down Clippers

PHOTO | JOE KLAMAR | FILE Picture taken on December 28, 2012 shows Pau Gasol (L) of the Los Angeles Lakers defending against Nicolas Batum (R) of the Portland Trail Blazers during their NBA game at Staples Centre in Los Angeles, California.

PHOTO | JOE KLAMAR | FILE Picture taken on December 28, 2012 shows Pau Gasol (L) of the Los Angeles Lakers defending against Nicolas Batum (R) of the Portland Trail Blazers during their NBA game at Staples Centre in Los Angeles, California. Portland forward Nicolas Batum notched the second triple-double of his NBA career on January 26, 2013 to lead the Trail Blazers to a 101-100 victory over the slumping Los Angeles Clippers.  AFP

By AFP

PORTLAND, Oregon

Portland forward Nicolas Batum notched the second triple-double of his NBA career Saturday to lead the Trail Blazers to a 101-100 victory over the slumping Los Angeles Clippers.

The Blazers handed the injury-hit Clippers their fourth straight defeat, matching Los Angeles' worst skid of the season.

The Clippers were clearly feeling the continued absence of Chris Paul, who missed a third successive contest with a bruised right kneecap. He has missed a total of six games this campaign with the same injury.

"Chris is our closer," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Portland's French import Batum, who posted his first career triple-double in a loss to Washington on Monday, had 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Damian Lillard scored another 20 points for the Trail Blazers, who have won two straight after a six-game slide.

The Clippers, who had won 24 of 27 contests before their current slump, appeared to have turned the tide when a Lamar Odom dunk gave them a 100-91 lead with 2:38 remaining.

But Portland, who have won two straight after a six-game losing streak, closed out the contest with 10 unanswered points.

"We've got to learn from it," Del Negro said. "It's a tough pill to swallow. We had an opportunity to steal this one, and we couldn't convert down the stretch."

Jamal Crawford had a last chance to get the win for Los Angeles, but his jump shot over Batum bounced off the rim.

"I'll take that shot 10 times out of 10, and I'll make it nine times out of 10," Crawford said. "That's just the one I missed."

The Clippers will not have to wait long for their chance to avenge the defeat. They host the Trail Blazers in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Paul wasn't expected to be back, but Del Negro said his team needs to learn to win without him.

"We've got to learn with this group to finish games," Del Negro said. "This was an opportunity to finish the game... Not converting down the stretch is what it's all about."