Blazers, Clippers meet again

Revitalized L.A. gave Portland its first loss




One night after college football’s national championship comes the NBA’s city championship.

Rip City vs. Lob City.

The Trail Blazers play host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday in hopes of avenging their first loss of the season. The Clips downed Portland in Tinseltown on New Year’s Day thanks to same late-game theatrics from newly acquired point guard Chris Paul, but regardless of last week’s result, the Rose Garden would be teeming with anticipation when this revitalized club arrives.

Since Paul teamed up with Blake Griffin, the reigning Rookie of the Year who’s averaging 24.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, L.A. was dubbed “Lob City” because of its potential for incessant alley-ooping. After all, Griffin and teammate Deandre Jordan were second and third in the league in dunks, respectively, last year, while Paul is averaging 9.3 assists per game. to go along with his 15.2 points.

So far, that athleticism, blended with Paul’s precision, has translated to winning as the Clippers head into Tuesday’s game with a 4-2 record. And one of those four victories, of course, was a 93-88 win over Portland.

L.A. led that game by 15 points with less than nine minutes to go, but twice watched Portland climb back to within striking distance.

The first run came midway through the fourth quarter, when the Blazers closed the gap to four points, only to watch Paul bank in a contested, shot-clock-beating 3-pointer to put his team back up by seven. The second came in the closing minute, when LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a bank shot with 29 seconds left to bring Portland (6-2) to within two, a basket that Paul countered via a driving lay-up with nine seconds remaining that put the game out of reach.

The good news for the Blazers is that they are have not lost any of their five games at the Rose Garden this season. Their most recent victory came Sunday — albeit lethargically — in which Portland clobbered the Cavaliers 98-78.

Aldridge leads the Blazers with 22.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Gerald Wallace adds 15.0 points and 6.6 rebounds for Portland. The Clippers, who have won three in a row, are also getting 16 points a game from Chauncey Billups, and 14.8 from Caron Butler.