This game will tip at 3:00 p.m. and can be seen on CSN locally. For those who can see CSN locally, that is.
A Look at the Clippers
This will be the third meeting between the Clippers and Blazers this season and there appears to be a rule that the teams shall not be at full strength when they face each other. Perhaps the basketball gods have decided that such a critical mass of awesomeness would bend the universe irreparably, breaking down dimensional barriers and throwing predictable laws of physics into chaotic disarray. Or perhaps Zach Randolph is a tool. We'll never know which.
Whatever the case, Greg Oden is out today with a chipped knee and Randolph is serving a suspension for getting chippy with Louis Amundson the other night. Marcus Camby has been battling an inner ear infection and hasn't played for the last three games but there's been a long break for L.A. so I assume he's back. We'll see. Chris Kaman, on the other hand, hasn't played a game since Thanksgiving. In short, be prepared for Przybilla/Skinner Part 6: This Time It's Personal.
A few things have changed since the last time the Blazers and Clippers met. The big one is that shooting guard Eric Gordon has graduated from "Occasional Good Game" territory through "Hey, He's on a Streak!" and right on into "Holy Jumping Meatballs You Better Circle This Guy on the Scouting Report" land. It's been about two months since he's scored below double figures and he's had 15 games above 20 points since late December. Baron Davis, on the other hand, has had 15 points only once since his return on January 28th. Al Thornton continues to make good on his promise as a scorer. He had 33 in the huge loss to Phoenix the other night but he's had a number of disappointing outings in January, lately on an every-other-game basis, which could be good for Portland. If Thornton doesn't score a ton the Clips probably have no chance tonight. Basically the Clippers have promoted their Travis Outlaw and Jerryd Bayless because everybody in front of them has been traded or injured and those guys are scoring like wildfire.
One thing that hasn't changed is that the Clippers are losing. And they're not just losing, they're losing badly. I haven't seen this many spankings since Kirk/Spock Slash Fiction day at the local library. (Side Note: Don't google that too deeply if you don't know what it means. "Kirk" and "Spock" and "spankings" in the same sentence ought to give you the general idea, eh?) However the Clippers are winning now and again because they're pouring in an enormous amount of points. They've scored 343 combined points in their last three games (114+ average). They've scored 119 or above in 4 of their last 6. However they've given up 406 combined points in their last three games (135+ average) and let the opponent score 119 or more in 5 of their last 8. If points in a Clippers game were currency you'd need a wheelbarrow full to buy a loaf of bread.
Even though it's reasonable to expect Baron Davis will have a better game today than he's been having lately (it's the Blazers after all) Portland should really be able to key on and punish Gordon and Thornton. They'll score, but if the Clips get to 120 today with Randolph out the Blazers should be ashamed.
Keys to the Game
1. Even if Camby returns today the Clippers will be all but forced to play some version of small ball. The Blazers are going to have to deal with the likes of Fred Jones (who scored 20 against the Suns), Ricky Davis, and Mardy Collins along with Baron, Eric, and Al. Two things become important here. First you have to keep a lid on their enthusiasm. There's nothing a bench player thrust into the sunlight loves more than you taking him lightly. Stay in front of these guys and remind them quickly why they weren't starting. Second, you have to punish them like heck on the other end. This means our starters and bench players both. Roy, Fernandez, Sergio, Bayless...all of these guys should be driving, dishing, and shooting any time one of the subs pulls major minutes.
2. Here's the Clipper frontcourt today outside of Camby: Brian Skinner, DeAndre Jordan, Steve Novak. Even if Marcus grabs his usual rebounds (which, by the way, we should try to prevent) we better dominate the board battle. I'm also thinking it's time for Lamarcus-from-Hell Round 2. LMA should be slipping on his own drool walking onto the court today. His production should be enough to balance out one of the Clippers' main guys. As long as that happens it's going to be hard for L.A. to win.
3. Do the usual things you have to do to keep an opponent from scoring 120. Get back in transition, don't turn the ball over stupidly, don't fire jumpers in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, and take the game seriously. This isn't rocket science. Play the good brand of Blazer basketball and walk away with a much-needed win.
The only thing scary about this game is both Davis and Camby being traditional Blazer Killers. I guess if they catch on fire and Thornton and Gordon have big days we could get surprised. That better not happen though. It would take a lot of apathy on Portland's part. Playoffs coming...need seeding...play ball!
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