Tonight the Portland Trail Blazers (36-16) will travel South to take on the Los Angeles Clippers (36-18). This is the second of three regular season meetings between the teams. In the first meeting, the Trail Blazers protected home court by securing a 116-112 win in overtime. Nicolas Batum sent the game into overtime by hitting a 3-pointer with 5.3 seconds left in regulation. LaMarcus Alridge, who had 32 points and 10 rebounds in that game, scored all of Portland’s field goals in the extra period.
For the Trail Blazers, this will be the second game in a back-to-back after they lost a close game to the Thunder at home last night. Portland was able to keep Oklahoma City on their toes and controlled most of the game. The late game blues struck again as the Trail Blazers went cold in the fourth quarter. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge combined for five points in the second half and shot a combined 1-17 from the field. When your two All-Stars play that poorly, you’re almost destined to lose the game. Tonight they will have their hands full with a Clippers team that is firing on all cylinders.
The Clippers are hot. They have won their last two games and have had two days to rest up. We might as well say they have had three days of rest after their blow out win against the 76ers on Sunday. It was Chris Paul’s first game back from his shoulder injury and they were happy to see him in uniform. The Clippers beat the 76ers by 45 points! Darren Collison, the back-up point guard, had almost as much playing time as four Clippers starters. They are extremely confident and rested which is a dangerous combination for the visiting Trail Blazers.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Joel Freeland injured his right knee during last night’s game. It has been reported that he suffered an MCL sprain and is expected to miss four to six weeks.
- LaMarcus Aldridge was questionable before yesterday’s game due to general soreness. He seems to have a groin injury that is bothering him but he will play tonight.
- Mo Williams flew back to Portland yesterday and will be with the team today. It is likely that he will return to the lineup tonight.
Los Angeles Clippers:
- J.J. Redick will not play tonight. He is suffering from a sore right hip.
Keys To The Game
Damian Lillard vs. Chris Paul. Damian Lillard and Chris Paul will both be participating in the All-Star game this weekend. This match-up includes two point guards that serve different roles for their teams. Damian Lillard is a scorer. He likes to shoot from 3-point range and take defenders off the dribble. The Trail Blazers need Lillard to be a scorer. Chris Paul is a floor general. He facilitates the offense for the Clippers. If Paul doesn’t score in double figures, his team can still win because of his ability to create easy buckets for his teammates. Lillard can also share the ball and Paul can obviously score so tonight we will see which style each player chooses (or is forced) to utilize.
Mo Williams. Mo Williams has been a terrific role player off the bench for Portland this season. Acquiring Williams was not as big as Lopez but it might have a greater effect. Last year the Trail Blazers bench was one of the worst in the league. They were able to bring in Williams who can be an immediate spark to the second unit. Williams had 12 points and 8 assists in the first meeting and will be playing for the first time in seven days. Hopefully he can clear his mind of his personal life and play with heart and hustle tonight.
Rebounds. Too many times have the Trail Blazers given up second chance point after second chance point. DeAndre Jordan had 20 rebounds all by himself last time he played the Trail Blazers. It will be important for Robin Lopez to keep Jordan off the glass but maybe even more important are the other four Trail Blazers on the court. They must put themselves in positions to get defensive rebounds after every Clippers miss. With a team like the Clippers, who run a high powered offense, you can not give them more than one look at the basket. Last meeting, the Trail Blazers out-rebounded the Clippers 60-48 and they must work hard to make that happen again.