Clippers right ship with victory over Trail Blazers

There was a stretch this season when the Clippers went 25-5 and put the NBA on notice as a serious championship contender.

In recent times the Clippers lost their way, losers of four of their last five games before they faced a Portland Trail Blazers team with the fifth-worst record in the league.

That in itself was a recipe for positive change for the Clippers, who led by as many as 27 in their 116-103 win Wednesday night at the Moda Center, with all five starters scoring in double figures.

“We just happen to be going through a tough stretch,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “But we know who we are. You’re not going to win every game. We understand that. We understand that we can play better. We understand that. But let’s start with executing on both sides of the basketball. We know what our identity is and who we are…”

Lus said they were a defensive-minded team, a physical team, a team that played with pace and space and a team that moved the ball when they were rolling.

“So, we definitely have those things in us,” Lue said. “We’ve shown that.”

Their defense had become one of the Clippers’ biggest issues. They had dropped to 27th in the NBA in defensive rating (117.2 points per game) in their last 15 games.

And if they were going to shore that up against the Trail Blazers, the Clippers had to do so without two key role players in Terance Mann (right shoulder strain) and sixth man Norman Powell (lower left leg contusion).

Still, the Clippers had stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard ready for action.

George put in work with 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block.

Leonard, who appeared to injure his left hand when he was fouled in the third quarter, had 24 points on nine-for-16 shooting, four rebounds and four steals. He made two free throws after the injury, eventually taking a seat on the bench late in the quarter, never to return because the Clippers had control of the game.

James Harden did his thing with a double-double of 19 points and 14 assists.

The Clippers (43-25) face these same Trail Blazers again here Friday night.

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