Blake Griffin leads the new look LA Clippers against Portland to get 2012 started. Photo courtesy of Rob Hammer Photography.

Game 4 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers

Blazers: 3-0 (2nd Northwest Division)

Clippers: 1-2 (3rd Pacific Division)

Game Details: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA. 6:30 PM. TV: CSNW Radio: KXTG (750 AM)

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1”, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), SF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7″, Alabama), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6’11″, UMass)

Projected Los Angeles Starting Lineup: PG Chris Paul (#3, 6′, Wake Forest), SG Mo Williams (#25, 6’1”, Alabama), SF Caron Butler (#5, 6’7”, Connecticut), PF Blake Griffin (#32, 6’10”, Oklahoma), C DeAndre Jordan (#6, 6’11”, Texas A&M)

This is going to be an interesting one. The Los Angeles Clippers have been one of the most talked about teams in this young season. The off season additions of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler has turned one of the perennial doormats of the NBA into a hip, possible contender. I’m not fully on board with the Clips being contenders, but they are no longer a team that can be beaten without actually having to prepare.

Blake Griffin is a bona fide star. He’s a highlight factory, with a well crafted image, who in one season made himself the face of the NBA’s younger generation. He sells a ton of jerseys, and he can play. He’s added a decent jumper to his game this year, meaning he’s more versatile, and thus more dangerous. In my opinion, the best way to neutralize Blake is to make him work on defense. He’s not a bad defender, far from it, but if Portland can wear him down on the defensive end he might not be as effective on offense. Good thing the Blazers have LaMarcus Aldridge, the one power forward in the league that I would take right now over Blake Griffin.

A bigger problem that Blake, primarily because LA cancels out Griffin, is going to be DeAndre Jordan. He’s pretty one dimensional offensively, but that’s one pretty good dimension. He jumps out of the gym, he’s basically seven feet tall, and he can and will dunk on anybody and everybody that gets in his way. Again, Portland can neutralize Jordan by making him play defense, preferably getting him into early foul trouble. The problem? The Blazers don’t have an offensive minded center. They can attack Jordan by going hard to the rim, like Gerald Wallace does, but that’s not the most efficient way to get a pure shot blocker to foul out.

The Clippers ship (you like that one?) is piloted by Chris Paul. He most definitely takes this team to the next level. Paul has suffered back-to-back losses to elite PGs Tony Parker and Derrick Rose. Raymond Felton isn’t quite at that level, but again, it’s a situation where the Blazers at the very least can get close to matching what the Clippers do best.

Sunday’s game may very well come down to a battle of the benches. In this regard, I feel like Portland has the advantage. If Billups is still out, that takes one of LA’s best bench players–Mo Williams–and makes him a starter. That leaves Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, and Bryan Cook to carry the second unit on offense. I think the Blazers should be able to better that unit and then some.

Here’s a few things to watch for:

  • Can Portland play their game: The Blazers are going to want to push the pace in this one, and that might not be a great idea. CP3 is a phenomenal running point guard, and if this becomes a track meet, I’m not sure Portland has the advantage. The Blazers do however have the ability to change from a running team to a half court team, and I’m not sure the Clippers are as able to make the transition, playing mostly iso-Blake Griffin offense in the half court.
  • Blazers defense: The Clippers are going to look to put a lot of points on the board. Portland has gone over 100 in all three of their games, but they’ve also given up 100 twice. If the Blazers can stop LA from putting up big numbers they should be able to win this one. It is a Clippers game, so let’s invoke Lawler’s law. Portland’s goal should be to beat the Clippers to 100 points, that’s how they’ll get to 4-0.
  • Can Portland limit their turnovers: The Blazers can not win this game if they turn the ball over 25 times like they did on Thursday. The Clippers will make them pay with fast break lobs and dunks, and all that stuff that will make Sportscenter. Keeping turnovers in the neighborhood of 10 will be just as important as winning the race to 100.
  • Nicolas Batum: Let’s watch his minutes, and let’s see how he plays. My guess is that Nic will have a big game against a less than stellar second unit.

emai; me: [email protected]

Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

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Tags: Blazers Clippers Regular Season

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