PORTLAND, Ore. — The Los Angeles Clippers got their seventh straight win — and sixth without Blake Griffin — but all the attention was on a guy who didn’t play.
Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum sat out of Portland’s 109-98 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday night because he was mistakenly left off the active roster that was turned in before the game.
The "clerical error" caused confusion at the start of the game, but ultimately it meant that Portland’s second-leading scorer couldn’t play.
That took some of the attention away from Chris Paul, who had 21 points and a season-high 19 assists for the Clippers, who have the league’s longest active winning streak at seven games. And that’s come despite the absence of Griffin, the team’s leading scorer with an average of 23.2 points a game, because of a partially torn left quadreiceps tendon.
"Now we’re playing a lot smoother; we’re just trying to hold it down until the big fella gets back," Paul said. "I’m going to keep saying this, we’re holding this together ’till 32 gets back."
DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double for the Clippers.
Damian Lillard had 20 points and nine assists, while Mason Plumlee had a season-high 19 points for the Blazers, who trailed by as many as 23 points but closed the gap in the fourth quarter.
Mo Harkless dunked to narrow Portland’s deficit to 97-91 with 4:35 left. Paul Pierce’s 3-pointer pulled the Clippers out front 101-91 and the Blazers couldn’t catch up.
The uncertainty over McCollum, who is second on the team with an average of 21 points a game, marred the start of the game for the Blazers.
Allen Crabbe started in place of McCollum, who was dressed and on the bench at the start of the game but left for the locker room after the first quarter. Shortly before the break, the Blazers announced that McCollum was inactive "due to a clerical error in the NBA’s active list reporting."
Afterward, Blazers coach Terry Stotts took full responsibility for the error.
"I signed the paper without really noticing it, but it’s my fault for not looking at it," Stotts said. "Although we caught the error, we thought we’d caught it in time, apparently we did not, so CJ was ruled inactive, and that’s that."
McCollum said he was putting it all in the past.
"It’s unfortunate, but it’s over with. Just moving on to the next game," he said.
The Clippers jumped out to an early 22-10 lead on Pierce’s 3-pointer. They extended the lead to 35-23 on Jamal Crawford’s 3-pointer and free throw. It was his 45th 4-point play, an ongoing NBA record.
Los Angeles led 63-40 at the half, the team’s largest lead of the game.
Lillard hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Blazers within 70-58 in the third quarter, then added another 3 that pulled Portland within 89-79 with just under 10 minutes left. Gerald Henderson’s tip and Harkless’ fast break layup and free throw closed the gap to 89-83.
Wesley Johnson answered for the Clippers with a 3-pointer — his first basket of the game — to stop Portland’s momentum.
It didn’t help Portland that Lillard was still getting back into form after missing seven games with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The Blazers’ All-Star came back on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies, but Portland fell 91-78.
The Clippers were coming off a 130-99 victory over Philadelphia
Clippers: Wesley Johnson, who was dealing with a sore right foot, was in the Clippers’ starting lineup. … Griffin, who was injured Christmas Day against the Lakers, could return as early as this weekend, although coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday there was no update as to his status.
Trail Blazers: The Blazers lead the Clippers 86-21 in games played in Portland.
ABOUT THOSE ASSISTS
It was Paul’s fourth straight game with at least 10 assists. His career high is 21, set Nov. 6, 2007 against the Lakers.
"When you have a guy on your team that can recognize plays that you should run without having to look back (at the coach) — he called four in a row, that were perfect calls," Rivers said about his star point guard.
DAVIS OFF THE BENCH
Davis had 12 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season for the Blazers, second in the league for reserve players. Against the Clippers, he’s had double-doubles in all three games, averaging 14 points and 12.3 rebounds.
Clippers: host Charlotte on Saturday.
Trail Blazers: host Golden State on Friday.