The Blazers are undefeated at home this season. They are also undefeated against teams from Los Angeles. True they’ve only had one game at the Rose Garden so far in 2012-13, and that one game just happened to be against the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, it behooves us as fans to recognize if and when a streak of any importance is on the line.
Tonight as Portland hosts the LA Clippers, they’ll try to protect home court, while staying unbeaten by teams from the City of Angels, and while avoiding dipping below .500 for the first time.
Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C J.J. Hickson
Clippers Starting 5:PG Chris Paul, SG Willie Green, SF Caron Butler, PF Blake Griffin, C DeAndre Jordan
The Los Angeles Clippers became an important Western Conference team last season when they swiped Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. Since that time, they’ve been on the short list of Playoff teams/possible contenders. However, they’re also very close to the top of teams across the NBA that don’t live up to the hype.
This season has been no different than last. The Clippers can win and win big, as shown by their victory Wednesday night against the theretofore undefeated San Antonio Spurs. They can also lose, like they did to the likely lottery-bound Golden State Warriors. As they were last year, the Clips are a group of incredibly talented basketball players who are generally limited in their depth led by arguably the best point guard in the game. Chris Paul can win games on his own, but I’m sure if you asked him he would say that he would rather not have to.
What Portland needs to look to do Thursday is play their own game. We know the Blazers play a lot better at the Rose Garden. They feed off the crowd, that helps to get the ball moving and the pace up, etc. etc. That’s fine, a fast paced game isn’t the kryptonite it once was for Portland. However, if they try to match Lob City lob for lob, it’s going to be a long night. If the Blazers can dictate the pace and style of play, if they don’t let it become a full-on street ball match, and if the make the Clippers play a little to a lot of half court defense, we could see a Portland win.
What to Watch For
- The marquee match-up, the one that will be highlighted by TNT in the pregame, during the game, and in the post game will be Chris Paul versus Damian Lillard. Paul is the king; Lillard is the heir apparent (after four games). Damian’s first week and change has been a gauntlet of the NBA’s best a brightest at the one spot. He’s held his own and then some. In fact, Lillard went from being the popular vote for Rookie of the Year among those basketball writers and media members who actually paid attention to the NBA to basically the most popular ROY candidate among everybody everywhere. CP3 will probably take it upon himself to stop Dame in this one. Paul no doubt saw how Darren Collison did everything he could to get Lillard onto the bench early in Portland’s loss in Dallas, and it’s likely he tries to do the same thing. Lillard shouldn’t have the same problem with staying in front of Paul on the break as he did with Collison, but CP3 will have the ball a lot and you can bet he’ll be going right after Damian. It should be fun to watch.
- The bench, the bench, the bench. The Clippers are missing a few of their main bench pieces from a season ago, most notably in the middle, but they’ve still got some guys that can do damage. Portland’s bench, well…it’s Portland’s bench. Expect a mixed reaction to Jamal Crawford when he checks in. Also expect Jamal to shoot the ball about a million times.
- Defense. Can Portland play defense, and can the Blazers force the Clippers to play defense. Also, if LA gets out to a big lead, will Portland have the fortitude to stay connected and make a game of it. The Clippers play very well when they get a lead. They’re not quit as good in close games, considering that two of their best weapons on both ends of the court, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, are absolutely miserable from the free throw line.