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Game 31 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

February 15, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) celebrates with small forward Caron Butler (5) after scoring against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Staples Center. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Blazers: 16-14 (3rd Northwest Division)

Clippers: 18-9 (1st Pacific Division)

Game Details: Rose Garden Arena Portland, OR. 7:30 PM. TV: TNT. Radio: 750 AM (KXTG)

Projected Blazers Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1’’, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5’’, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8’’, MSB Le Mans, France) , PF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7’’, Alabama), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6’11’’, Massachusetts)

Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:  PG Chris Paul (#3, 6′, Wake Forest), SG Randy Foye (#4, 6’4”, Villanova), SF Caron Butler (#5, 6’7”, Connecticut), PF Blake Griffin (#32, 6’10”, Oklahoma), C DeAndre Jordan (#6, 6’11”, Texas A&M)

It’s gut-check time in the Rose City tonight, ladies and gentlemen. Third game in as many days, looming four-game home losing streak, no LaMarcus Aldridge again, LOB CITY. In tennis, commentators often talk about consolidating a service break. Consolidation happens when a player breaks their opponents serve then holds their next service game. The break is meaningless if you let your opponent break back immediately.

For the purpose of this extended metaphor, Portland broke serve by winning in Oakland. Huge. But now they have the equally daunting task of holding on their home court against the high-flying, dunking, three-point shooting, no defense playing, mid-sized imported discount four-door sedan jumping Los Angeles Clippers. A loss tonight negates the victory of one night ago.

So how does Portland hold serve? BY PLAYING DEFENSE. This will be the third night that the Blazers’ opponent could care less about doing anything on the defensive end. The Clips dare their opponents to out-score them. Most of the time they come out on the winning end of that proposition. With LA down and Portland’s guards shooting the way they’ve been, it’s highly unlikely the Blazers will be able to win a shooting contest.

What they will be able to do is put pressure on the Clippers to play some defense of their own by making it as hard as possible to score on offense. That means extending defensive possessions so LA has to play a little half-court offense (and then finishing those defensive possessions), and not letting Chris Paul get a fast break game going. That also means scoring and not turning the ball over, two things Portland has struggled with recently.

Here are a couple things to watch for:

  • Portland’s shooting: The Blazers might not deserve a good shooting night, but they are going to need it. Nobody needs to start hitting shots more than Wesley Matthews. He hasn’t had a good night in weeks, and it’s starting to look like he isn’t confident in his shot. With the home crowd behind him, Wesley might be able to string a few good looks together. After Wes, Raymond Felton needs to find his groove. At this point saying that is beyond obvious and pointless, but I feel like if I can get it down than I can also be the first person to say I told you so when, and by when I mean if, it happens.
  • How gassed are the Blazers going to be: This season is all about getting early leads and taking the air out of your opponent. Teams just don’t seem to have the energy to mount serious comebacks this season. Portland is going to have heavy legs. Hopefully there will be enough left in the tank to get involved in this one early. If it stays close all the way the Blazers will have a chance. If they get behind early, it’s probably over.
  • Will people be able to watch the first half: Last time Portland played on TNT this season (against the Lakers) the first game of the double-header went into like 30 overtimes and the national TV audience didn’t get the Blazer game until halftime. Hopefully that won’t happen again or their might be an Oregon-wide boycott of Ted Turner and every one of his enterprises.

Email me: [email protected]

Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

Topics: Blazers, Clippers

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