Game Time 7:00 p.m. Pacific TV: Comcast
Note: For even more Marcus Camby discussion see the post right below this one.
The All-Star break couldn't have come quickly enough for the 21-31 Los Angeles Clippers. Just a couple weeks prior they had been the 20-23 Los Angeles Clippers, but then they started getting spanked like a chain-smoking kindergartener. They lost 8 of their last 9, all but 2 by double-digits, watching Coach Mike Dunleavy retreat to the front office in the process. They'll try to arrest their tumble into oblivion tonight by grabbing onto the Blazers and attempting to force them over the cliff instead. The Clippers lost to the Blazers in Portland in late December but made up for it with a win at home a few days later.
As a team the Clippers don't present an imposing challenge. Their defense is mediocre, their offense is bad, their style is ill-defined, and they have real trouble working together, let along sacrificing and putting out the kind of effort you need to win in this league. They commit too many turnovers, their three-point shooting is substandard, their free-throw percentage reaches Dwight Howard levels. They can offensive rebound a little but they don't have enough of anything to pose a threat on most nights. Normally this would be a clear case of "give the team no easy buckets and you beat them", case closed.
However the Clips present particular dangers that make the Blazers more vulnerable to them than the typical NBA team, especially under present circumstances. Chris Kaman has emerged as their clear star this year at 20 points and 9 rebounds per game. Portland has trouble controlling the paint on the best of nights and Kaman can score in a couple of ways down there. Baron Davis has had some bad games against the Blazers but you always feel like he could pop off for 40 at any given time. Eric Gordon and Al Thornton also post matchup problems. Thornton has not played well against Portland this year but Gordon has carved us up. Rasual Butler has done well this year. You have a mixture of veteran confidence and athleticism there that Portland has trouble handling. For that reason the Blazers can't take this game for granted.
And that, in the end, is the point. As mentioned in the post right beneath this one, Portland is on a 27-game clock to the post-season. The key to this stretch will be winning the games you're supposed to win. A home date against the Clippers certainly qualifies. Portland tends to play quite well or quite poorly against this team. Given the circumstances, quite well is mandatory tonight.
Keys to the Game
1. Even with the caveats above, the #1 rule is still no easy, confidence-building buckets for this team. If you make the game even slightly hard they're going to get selfish and they're going to get lost. Play it like a rec-league game and you'll be facing one heck of a team. Every shot contested is the mantra tonight.
2. You can handle Kaman shooting 60% and scoring 20 on you. You can handle Gordon shooting 60% and scoring 20 on you. You can't have both. Guard something and you should win.
3. Force them to the outside.
4. For Pete's sake, drive on them! This is doubly true if (since?) Camby is gone.
5. Show your desire through a quick start and hustle throughout. This ought to be a coming out party for the playoff run, not just another game we could go either way on.
See the Clips' point of view at ClipsNation.
There's no Jersey Contest form for this game. The contest will resume Friday.