Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups two of the Clippers perennial All-Stars.

Game 9 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Blazers: 6-2 (2nd Northwest Division)

Clippers: 4-2 (1st Pacific Division)

Game Details: Rose Garden Arena, Portland, OR. 7:00 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 Chauncey Billups (#1, 6’3”, Colorado), SF Caron Butler (#5, 6’7”, Connecticut), PF Blake Griffin (#32, 6’10”, Oklahoma), C DeAndre Jordan (#6, 6’11”, Texas A&M)

I’ve allowed myself one “Lob City” tonight, as the term is falling out of favor even with those that created it, and since I burned it right there, I’ll start off by saying this. The Los Angeles Clippers and their LOB CITY offensive attack make their first of two stops at the Rose Garden Tuesday night, and without over emphasizing it too much, this is going to be a very serious test for the Trail Blazers.

From here on out, every game is going to be a serious test for Portland, so that isn’t such a weighty statement, but beating the Clippers is just as important as beating the Lakers was, as beating the Thunder was, and as beating all the other top tier Western Conference teams will be.

The Clippers come into town with as much fan fare as they’ve probably ever had, and they will be exciting to watch, there’s no doubt about, but the outcome of this game will have very little to do with how they play, and will have everything to do with how the Blazers come out.

Two games in a row Portland has looked sluggish and uninspired in the first quarter. You can fault lack of effort if you like, I choose to blame it on scheduling, lots of games, etc. etc. Regardless of why the Blazers haven’t looked so hot in their last two first quarters, they can ill afford to push that streak to a third game.

On January 4th, not quite a week ago, these same Los Angeles Clippers hung 41 points on the Houston Rockets. It’s true that the next night, they managed not even half that many points against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first quarter of that game, but there should be no doubt that these guys can score LOB CITY.

Portland has a blue-print for beating a team like the Clippers, attack inside, play tight defense, and don’t turn the ball over. LA is going to want to run; the Blazers should take the invitation and run with them. But they shouldn’t try to make this a track meet. Portland can’t out-athlete the Clippers. What they can do is balance the running and half-court offense, and make their half-court possessions count. The Blazers can get second chances on this team. Despite the Clips’ LOB CITY inside presence on offense, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin aren’t great rebounders. After that, LA has only Reggie Evans coming off the bench that can crash the boards.

Second chance opportunities can lead to long offensive possessions for the Blazers. Long offensive possessions for Portland means more defense for the Clippers. They don’t want to play defense LOB CITY and playing defense is how the Blazers are going to win this game.

Couple of things to watch for:

  • The opening intensity of Portland’s play: So, as I said to start this off, this game is important for a lot of reasons. The Blazers need to prove they can beat one of the only teams that has beaten them thus far, they need to get over their loss to Phoenix and their lame win against the Cavs, they need to protect home court. But how about this, they need to win the season series against this team. I think the Clippers will be in the neighborhood of the fourth or fifth seed in the Playoffs, possibly as high as the three. Portland is right there too. Having the season series against the Clippers is going to be big at the end of the season. Right now the Clips have held home court. Now it’s Portland’s turn.
  • Jamal Crawford: I’ve been highlighting Crawford pre-game a lot lately, but that’s because I think he can always be an ex-factor. He’s come out flat a lot recently, but that’s going to stop him from shooting. An open game like this one might turn out to be might be perfect for him to break out of his mini-slump. The best thing about Jamal is that it doesn’t take much for him to catch fire. If he can come out and knock down a couple of open shots in his first shift he might be in for a big night.
  • Chauncey Billups: When Portland lost in LA Billups was on the bench. Chauncey can be a game changer. Portland has to make sure to try and limit the damage that he can cause. Luckily Portland has the kind of crafty vets that are pretty well versed on Chauncey’s game.

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Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

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Tags: Blazers Chauncey Billups Chris Paul Clippers Jamal Crawford

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