Team Records: LA Clippers (20-10) at Portland (23-5)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on TNT, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -4
Refs: Mike Callahan, John Goble, Violet Palmer
TNT Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Steve Kerr, Louis Johnson
The Skinny: The Blazers return to the court following a four-day Christmas break as they begin their toughest stretch of the season so far. Tonight Portland hosts the Clippers, followed by the 2-time defending champion Heat Saturday and then road games in New Orleans and OKC before 2013 ends. The Clippers come into this game off a tough loss in a strange game in Oakland that saw Griffin ejected after Bogut appeared to instigate a scuffle for the purpose of drawing Griffin’s second technical. LA’s loss against the Warriors ended a five-game winning streak.
Last Season: The Clippers won the season series 3-1, marking only the second time in franchise history they have won consecutive season series over the Blazers.
Projected Clippers Lineup:
PF-Blake Griffin (Oklahoma-4th Season)-20.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.1 APG.
SF-Jared Dudley (Boston College-7th Season)-9.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.6 APG.
C-DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M-6th Season)-9.6 PPG, 13.1 RPG, .8 APG
SG-Jamal Crawford (Michigan-14th Season)-16.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.6 APG.
PG-Chris Paul (Wake Forest-9th Season)-19.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 11.3 APG.
Player to Watch: Blake Griffin (pictured at right)-From the first time I saw Blake Griffin play in college, it was easy to see he was something special. Griffin is simply a manchild, huge and hugely physical to boot. He is one of the most explosive players in the NBA in recent years and when you see him dunk it is often jaw dropping. Beyond his dunking ability, he has a decent if streaky midrange game and can even hit a 3 pointer or two. His defense is still a work in progress but even that has improved. Bottom line, Griffin is sure to amaze you.
Did You Know?: Clippers play by play announcer Ralph Lawler often cites “Lawler’s law”, which states that the first team to 100 points wins. Lawlers’s law has been correct 1,898 out of 2,056 times during Lawler’s career.
Song of the Day: Traditional English folk song “Capitol Ship”-An old song I used to sing in middle school about a ship piloted by a less than competent captain, that applies to the Clippers in the past, even if not now. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
LA Clippers: Out-SG JJ Reddick (Hand/Wrist), PG Maalik Wayns (Knee), SF Reggie Bullock (Ankle)
Ever since the blockbuster trade that brought Chris Paul to the Clippers a few years ago, the Clippers were rightly dubbed “Lob City” because Chris Paul is constantly throwing lob passes that result in spectacular dunks, usually by Jordan or Griffin. On offense, the Clippers mainly score via either three pointers, free throws or layups/dunks. As a result, the Clippers are one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA. Whether that entertaining style of play leads to winning basketball of the sort needed to make a deep playoff run is still under debate, especially after the Clippers were summarily dismissed by the Grizzlies in the first round last season. LA’s defense, a weak point for the past few years, is much improved this season, with the team ranking right in the middle of the pack. LA’s coaching is much improved as well, with a huge upgrade to Doc Rivers from VDN. This Clippers squad is no joke, and although questions remain about whether they are a true title contender, they will be very tough to beat. It will take a top-tier performance from Portland to pull out the win.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit LA’s 3 point makes. The Clippers are going to get their dunks in but dunks alone will not win them games. If Portland can limit their 3 point effectiveness, they should win Thursday.
LA Clippers win if: They score 104 points. The Clippers are 14-1 this year when scoring 104, and if they do so Thursday they’ll probably be able to win.