- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points, Joel Przybilla added 10 points and 14 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Clippers 87-72 on Saturday night to tie for third place in the Western Conference.

The Trail Blazers needed a late rally to beat the lowly Clippers, who were up by two with 7:44 remaining. The win came a day after Portland beat the Lakers, the Western Conference’s best team.

Portland tied Houston for the No. 3 seed with its fourth straight victory. The Trail Blazers also pulled within a game of Northwest Division leader Denver, which is second in the West.

Eric Gordon had 18 for the Clippers, who have lost seven of their last eight.

Los Angeles, down most of the game, took its first lead since the first quarter when Gordon scored on a layup with to make it 68-66.

Brian Skinner came off the bench to rally the Clippers with an impressive effort on both sides of the court. He lofted a hook shot to start a 10-0 run for Los Angeles and blocked both Greg Oden and Travis Outlaw’s attempts at dunks in the paint.

But Portland went on an 18-0 run, keyed by two 3-pointers from Rudy Fernandez, and the Clippers failed to score for more than five minutes until Baron Davis scored to make it 84-70.

The Clippers came out of the gate in the second half on a 13-3 run, sparked by Davis, Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby, to slice into a 46-31 halftime lead.

Randolph finished with 13 while Davis added 12.

They got within six with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter when Fred Jones hit a deep 3, but Steve Blake kept hitting shots for Portland. Blake, who had all of his 10 points in the third, sank a 25-footer of his own to make it 61-52.

Portland got off to a 1-for-9 start while the Clippers stitched together a 9-2 run to take an early 12-7 lead. But Brandon Roy and Aldridge helped launch Portland on a 21-6 run late in the second quarter. Roy had a free throw with 6:43 to start it and added a slam dunk and a layup while Aldridge added five points, four in the paint, during that stint.

The Clippers broke down on the defensive end during the final 1:37 of the period as the Trail Blazers railed off four straight buckets while penetrating the lane.

Notes:@ The Clippers failed to win two in a row for the first time since Feb. 25. … Portland coach Nate McMillan says rest has been key for the Trail Blazers during the last stretch of the season. “We’ve worked on recovery all year long and giving guys days off and that has really come into play this last month,” he said. … The Clippers’ Al Thornton has a torn tendon in his right shoulder, something that won’t require surgery.

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