Team Records: LA Clippers (4-2) at Portland (6-2)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 AM the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -5.5
Refs: Michael Smith, Tre Maddox, Sean Wright
The Skinny: The Blazers look to avenge their first loss of the season at home versus the new look Clippers. The Clippers have won three straight since starting the season 1-2, a streak that started with the win over the Blazers on New Year’s Day. The Blazers will look to improve on their best start since the year they last made the Western Conference Finals in 2000. This is LA’s first road game since losing in San Antonio December 28.
Last Time They Met: Portland lost an ugly one to the Clips, playing three quarters of horrible basketball and somehow managing to make it a close game with a good closing quarter. A few clutch shots by Chris Paul sealed the deal, however, and the Clippers hung on.
Projected Clippers Lineup:
PF: Blake Griffin (Oklahoma, 2nd season) – 24.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.3 APG
SF: Caron Butler (Connecticut, 10th season) – 14.8 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 APG
C: DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M, 4th season) – 7.5 PPG, 7 RPG, .2 APG
SG: Chauncey Billups (Colorado, 15th season) – 16 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3 APG
PG: Chris Paul (Wake Forest, 7th season) – 15.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 9.3 APG
Player to Watch: Chauncey Billups (pictured at right) – Billups may not have originally been too happy to find himself in LA after he reportedly warned that he would not show up to any team that claimed him off amnesty waivers. After they acquired Chris Paul a week later, it’s hard to say he feels the same way. Long one of the NBA’s great shooters, Billups, 5th all time in three-pointers made and 4th all time in FT%, may not have been the player he once was, but he is still capable of getting hot on any given night.
Did You Know?: The Clippers have five players on their roster who have played in an All-Star game (Billups, Paul, Griffin, Mo Williams and Butler), tied with Boston for the most in the NBA.
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee)
LA Clippers: Out – PG Eric Bledsoe (meniscus)
Re-Evaluating the Clippers: Some Surprising Observations on Offense
One would think that “Lob City” would be a fast-paced offense focused on accumulating points in bunches via easy lob dunks on fast breaks; however, they would be wrong. One of the most surprising things about the Clippers so far this season is that they are not a particularly fast-paced offense, as they only rank 18th overall. What they are is a highly efficient offense. Their offensive efficiency rating is a sizzling 106.5, and they score 1.3 points per shot. The reason they are able to do this? They pass the ball to the right spot as well as anyone in the NBA, largely due to Chris Paul’s arrival. As long as the Clippers don’t beat themselves by turning the ball over, they are tough, if not exactly fast-paced, on the offensive end.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make the Clippers pay on the offensive glass. The Clippers are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. If the Blazers can take advantage of this and rack up the second chance points, they should be able to win this game and even the season series 1-1.
LA Clippers win if: They make Portland play sloppy offense. The key to LA’s victory in the first matchup was that the Blazers never got into any offensive rhythm until the fourth. If the Clippers can pull this feat off again, they will probably be able to beat Portland for the second time this season.