PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Nicolas Batum held on to the game ball long after the confetti celebrating Portland's victory stopped falling from the rafters of the Rose Garden.
Batum had 20 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists — for his second triple-double in three games — and the Trail Blazers edged the Los Angeles Clippers 101-100 on Saturday night.
Batum had his first career triple-double on Monday in Portland's 98-95 loss to Washington. He had 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
But that one didn't quite mean as much.
"It's a better taste when you win the game," he said following the victory, the ball sitting in front of his locker.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Clippers, who played without guard Chris Paul for the third consecutive game with a bruised right kneecap.
The game was the first of a back-to-back between the two teams, who meet again in Los Angeles on Sunday night.
The Clippers trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half but they reclaimed the lead in the fourth quarter and held off the Blazers until Wesley Matthews pulled Portland within 100-99 with a layup and free throw.
J.J. Hickson made a pair of foul shots to give the Blazers back the lead with 45 seconds left and Jamal Crawford missed a 19-foot jumper for the Clippers with 0.9 seconds left for the final margin.
"I'll take that shot 10 out of 10 and I'll make it nine out of 10," Crawford said.
Batum grabbed the rebound of Crawford's final shot and encircled the ball tightly with both arms. He wouldn't even relinquish his hold when rookie Damian Lillard embraced him.
"I can't promise a triple-double every week, but I try to do something and help the team to win every game," Batum said.
Blake Griffin had 24 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Clippers, just shy of his third career triple-double.
"Tough pill to swallow," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We had an opportunity to steal this one and we couldn't convert down the stretch."
The Clippers are 3-3 in the six total games Paul has missed because of his kneecap. Del Negro said it was unclear when Paul might return.
Asked if Los Angeles missed him against the Blazers, Del Negro said simply: "Chris is our closer."
Eric Bledsoe once again started in the All-Star guard's place.
There also was uncertainty before the game about whether Griffin would play because of a sore left ankle. He tweaked it early in the Clippers' 93-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.
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