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Game 33 Preview: Clippers vs. Blazers

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Game Time:  7:00p.m. Pacific  TV:  Comcast

The Los Angeles Clippers come into this game with a 13-17 record, fresh off of an upset of the Boston Celtics on Sunday night to halt a three-game losing streak.  Other than during a three-game stretch against the ‘Wolves, Warriors, and Grizzlies in early November, the Clippers have not managed to win with any consistency this year.  Their one bastion of constancy has been center Chris Kaman who, after years of supporting actor status, has finally stepped forward as a bona fide star.  He's averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds on 50.5% shooting.

Second-year guard Eric Gordon, last year's breakout star, started the year on fire but suffered from a groin injury in mid-November and hasn't returned to form yet.  Point guard Baron Davis has been a little more steady than Gordon but he, too, has been up and down with shooting percentages ranging from 64% to 14% during games in this month alone.  He's either on or off and there's no in-between.  Former young stud Al Thornton is also having trouble finding range and focus and despite retaining his explosiveness has lost minutes to reserve Rasual Butler.  Any of these guys can kill you. That's not debatable.  The question is, will they?  That depends on the night and your defense.

The Clippers tend to make the game easy.  Following play-by-play man Ralph Lawler's maxim they tend to win when they score 100 or more and lose when they don't.  They're probably not going to stop you unless you make it really easy on them.  But they will score on you if you're not paying attention.  When they score they get energized.  When they're energized they play better.  Make them struggle and they'll crumble.  Let them explode and you'll not contain them.

As you may suspect the Clippers are not your classic offensive setting team.  They tend to take advantage of mismatches, employing them (or using screens to create them) either to generate a direct score or to make you commit so they can find somebody you're not guarding.  You don't have to worry about five options on their plays.  You have to worry about the guy in front of you, what evil he's planning, and whether somebody is cutting to the bucket behind you for the alley-oop.  The Clippers are neither fast nor efficient in their overall offense but they will run if you don't get back on them.  And in those cases you're not going to compensate for their athleticism.  They're going to dunk.

On the other hand the Clippers are fairly disciplined in getting back themselves so you're not going to be able to run back at them much.  Their defense is adequate, not spectacular.  They have a couple of guys who can get after it and a few more who move pretty quickly.  If you stand and shoot or drive without moving them their athleticism will tell.  If you make them make decisions they suffer.  They're not great defensive rebounders which doesn't help.  Marcus Camby is out tonight which removes one more weapon from their defensive arsenal.

The Clips turn the ball over too much and they have trouble hitting the three.  Baron Davis will chuck them all night long but Gordon is the only guy you have to worry about actually hitting.

All in all this adds up to a game the Blazers should have a good chance of winning provided they work at it and play with some energy and intelligence.  Just don't give them a clear road map to winning and they probably won't.

Keys to the Game

1.  Always guess at the first option on defense.  You'll probably be right.

2.  Get back in transition and watch for cutters!  You have to be aware of their ability to go at the rim because one they have a head of steam you'll not stop them.

3.  Take advantage of their turnovers.

4.  LaMarcus Aldridge should hit the offensive glass hard.

5.  Punish their guards defensively.  Roy and Bayless should look to penetrate and score.

6.  You also have to stop one of their two big-scoring guards.  Choose one and do it.

Check out the Clippers' point of view at http://www.clipsnation.com

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form, the last of the month, http://blazersedge.reaxion.org/gameform.php

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)