Team Records: LA Clippers (3-2) at Portland (2-2)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on TNT, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Clippers -1.5
Refs: Tom Washington, Eric Lewis, Mark Lindsay.
The Skinny: Its been a surprisingly good opening week for the new look Blazers. After beating the Lakers opening night and scoring an OT win in Houston, the Blazers return home with a .500 record. They face a Clippers team that has been playing to the level of the competition so far this year, beating the Spurs and Lakers handily but losing at home to the Warriors and Cavs. This is LA’s first game outside of the Staples Center this season.
Last Season: The Clippers won the season series 3-1, the first season series they have won versus Portland since the 2006-07 season.
Projected Clippers Lineup:
PF-Blake Griffin (Oklahoma-3rd Season) 16.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 3.5 APG.
SF-Caron Butler- (Connecticut-11th Season)-16.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 3.5 APG.
C-DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M-5th Season)-7.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .3 APG
SG-Willie Green (Detroit Mercy-10th Season)-6.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, .5 APG.
PG-Chris Paul (Wake Forest-8th Season)-18.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 11.5 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”, that the first team to 100 wins. Lawlers’s law has been correct 1,898 out of 2,056 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 LA’s Vinny Del Negro.
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Achillies)
LA Clippers: Out-PG Chauncey Billups (Achilles), SF Grant Hill (Bone Bruise), PF Trey Tompkins (Bone Bruise).
Ever since the blockbuster trade that brought Chris Paul to the Clippers shortly before last season began, 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, even after last years’s run to the second round. Adding Jamal Crawford to the mix only increases their offensive firepower. However, their defense is a concern and perhaps more than their defense, their coaching is a concern. Vinny Del Negro is one of the worst coaches in the league, at least among playoff teams, and it is probably fitting that an organization as historically inept as the Clippers would take two steps back by kidding Vinny even as they move forward as a team.
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 can struggle to outrebound opponents at times, which seems odd given the players they have on their team. If they can nonetheless manage to outrebound Portland they should be able to win Thursday.