Game 78 Preview: Blazers vs. Clippers

Game Time:  7:30 p.m.  TV:  Comcast

OK, the Clippers are on a little bit of a bad run.  Kind of like Blockbuster.  Or Pauly Shore.  Or polio.  They've won 3 games out of their last 19, which means poor Travis Outlaw has won, like, 6 games all year.  To be fair they've been playing a long stretch of mostly playoff-oriented teams but they've also bowed to Titans like the Knicks, the Warriors, and the Kings, all at home.  Their problems are pretty simple:  they're not scoring points anymore, they can't defend, and their decent rebounding isn't enough to make up for it.

The Clips have some decent offensive talent.  Chris Kaman, Baron Davis, Eric Gordon...these guys can score.  But each has been erratic lately, likely due to the disintegration of offensive continuity caused by everybody on the team trying to:

A.  Win games with offense

and

B.  Win games themselves.

Half of the time the right hand seems clueless about the left hand's intentions on offense.  Sometimes the right hand doesn't even know what the right hand is doing.  Davis shoots a bunch but is down to one great game per week at this point.  Kaman might get 20 shots or might get 8.  He might shoot 30% and might shoot 50%.  Gordon is less ambiguous, shooting in the teens both in shot attempts and shot percentage.  (OK, maybe the percentage is in the low 30's.)   Throw in recent Davis and Gordon injuries (they're back now) and you start to smell the distinct odor of a ruptured system.

L.A.'s defense was never spectacular.  It hasn't improved since Marcus Camby left.  They've held opponent under 100 only 4 times in this stretch of 19 games, 2 of those going for wins.  But they're stocked with offensive-oriented players and generally need a strong team effort to defend well.  That's not happening either.

Blazer fans will want to know how the ex-Blazers are doing in their new homes.  Travis Outlaw has topped 15 points three times since going to L.A.  All of those games were losses.  He's had a disturbing number of 2-7 or 3-10 type outings.  His minutes have been as erratic as his shooting.  Steve Blake's shooting has been streaky but he's the only guy on the team dishing consistent assists and thus has been the more useful of the two.

Since the Clippers have lost 6 of their last 8 home games the Blazers probably only need to show up tonight and say "Trick or Treat" to get the candy.  But there's always the caveat that this team has played against Portland well at home.  Those 3 wins in their last 19 have come against Utah, Milwaukee, and Houston, so they don't automatically respect record.  Certainly with Camby and Miller in the fold you fear Baron Davis and Chris Kaman a little less than you did when Blake and LMA made up a steady part of the point guard-center diet.  But this team can still beat the Blazers and Portland does have to be careful...not so much because of the opposition but because this game means a ton in the playoff seeding chase.  Clear this hurdle and the last major one ahead is probably the Thunder game next Monday.  Trip over this hurdle and Monday's game probably won't matter.  Portland needs to get up big early, convince the Clips that there's no chance, and put this behind them.  Any kind of tight duel would be dangerous and disappointing.

Check out ClipsNation for the view from down south.

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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