Clippers reserves finish off victory over Trail Blazers

Dressed in street clothes because of an injury, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley opened his right hand and waved goodbye toward Portland’s opposing bench during the final seconds of the Clippers’ 122-117 victory Saturday inside HP Field House.

Five minutes before, the Clippers removed leading scorer Paul George in a three-point game and inserted a lineup featuring just one starter against a Portland lineup with four. Coach Doc Rivers said the decision was rooted in players reaching their allotted minutes since the team plays Brooklyn on Sunday.

The decision was also read in the moment as gamesmanship. The Trail Blazers are chasing the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and a victory would have helped last year’s conference finalists — red-hot thus far in the seeding round of the NBA restart — toward a potential first-round matchup against the Lakers.

Yet the Clippers’ reserves willed a victory, leading the team’s bench to erupt with every surprise bucket. Backup forward Patrick Patterson tied the score with one minute remaining before a layup by Portland’s Damian Lillard layup broke a 115-115 tie with 41 seconds left.

Then Rodney McGruder, a 27% shooter on three-pointers this season, drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 26 seconds left for a 118-117 lead. With a chance to take a lead with 18 seconds left, Lillard missed two free throws, and in the final seconds he missed a three-point shot that could have tied the score.

“I was shocked,” Rivers said of the misses.

Here are three observations:

1. The Clippers (47-22) survived despite surrendering 17 three-pointers for a third consecutive game. “We got lucky a little bit,” Rivers said. “They missed some good shots.”

2. Shooting guard Landry Shamet shifted into the starting lineup thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s absence and produced 19 points, his highest-scoring game since Feb. 13. Shamet made three three-pointers Saturday, as many as he’d made in his previous four games combined.

3. Beverley missed his second consecutive game because of soreness in his left calf but the guard took a step forward in his recovery by participating before tipoff Saturday in light sprints and shooting drills.

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