Team Records: LA Clippers (18-9) at Portland (16-14)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on TNT, Radio on 750 the Game.
Vegas Line: LA Clippers -2.
Refs: Ken Mauer, Eli Roe, Sean Wright.
The Skinny: What a difference 24 hours makes? After the worst loss of the year Tuesday vs. the Wizards, the Blazers got a rare road win in Oakland without Aldridge. Tonight they look to build on that as they welcome the Clippers to town. The Clips come in off a win over the same Wizards team that beat Portland Tuesday and have won 3 of their last 4.
Last Time they Met: The Blazers bounced back from an early season loss to the Clips to earn a hard fought home victory. Blake Griffin recorded a double double but Gerald Wallace led the Blazer attack with 20 as they held off the late Clipper charge.
Projected Clippers Lineup:
PF-Blake Griffin (Oklahoma-2nd Season) 21.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3 APG.
SF-Caron Butler- (Connecticut-10th Season)-15.1 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.5 APG.
C-DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M-4th Season)-8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, .3 APG
SG-Randy Foye (Villanova-6th Season)-7.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.2 APG.
PG-Chris Paul (Wake Forest-7th Season)-18.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 9 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 this season. Griffin is sure to amaze, even if his team overall doesn’t always do so.
Did You Know?: Clippers play by play announcer Ralph Lawler often cites “Lawler’s law”, that the first team to 100 wins. The past two seasons, the first team to reach 100 in a game involving the Clippers is 72-4.
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 both coaches today but especially to LA’s Vinny Del Negro.
Portland: Out-C Greg Oden (Knee), Quetionable- PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Ankle).
LA Clippers: Out-PG Chauncey Billups (Achilles).
Re-Evaluating the LA Clippers: The Importance of the Deep Ball
We all know that the Clippers are known as “lob city” and for good reason because they produce their fair share of amazing lob dunks virtually every game. Yet, what really separates wins from losses for the Clippers is their ability to open up these lobs by making deep shots, especially 3s. In wins this seasons, the Clips shoot nearly 37% from deep while in losses they shoot only 33% on virtually identical attempts. Perhaps more importantly, in their bigger wins this year, the one over the Blazers on New Year’s Day, the one over OKC a few weeks back, they have gotten hot from deep. They might have to again Thursday to beat Portland.
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 outrebound Portland. The Clippers are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. If they can nonetheless manage to outrebound Portland they should be able to win Thursday.