Portland Trail Blazers (1-0) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (0-0)
Oct. 27, 2016, 7:30 PDT. Moda Center; Portland, Ore.
Watch: TNT; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out); Clippers injuries: Paul Pierce (out), Brice Johnson (out)
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation
The Trail Blazers host the Los Angeles Clippers tonight at the Moda Center in Portland’s second game of the year after kicking off the regular season with a gutty win over the Jazz at home on Tuesday. L.A. is one of four NBA teams still sitting at 0-0.
The last several meetings between these two organizations -- you can even go back to the 2010-11 season if you want — might indicate a budding I-5 rivalry of sorts.
The Blazers and Clippers faced off in the last game of the 2015-16 preseason last fall, in what would turn out to be a bizarre finish to the exhibition season. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both registered 38+ minutes in a game that saw Portland build a 45-17 lead after the first quarter, only to choke the advantage away in the final period as L.A. rode Paul Pierce and his 5-for-7 shooting from outside to victory. Lillard registered 39 points in the meaningless loss, and the hard feelings between both teams haven’t dulled since.
Last regular season, in four games against the Clippers, Blazers coach Terry Stotts famously relied heavily on the “Hack-a-DeAndre” strategy. Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan — who's made just 42.1 percent of his free throws in his eight-year career — averaged 15 free throws per game against Portland last season. Jordan would go on to only make 35.7 percent of his freebies against the Blazers in 2015-16, and Stotts saw no reason to call off the strategy, which peaked in late-November when Jordan attempted 34 fouls shots in a single game and only made 12. Even though the Clippers enjoyed a double-digit lead throughout much of the contest and cruised to a fairly easy victory, Portland intentionally fouled Jordan to the bitter end.
Blazers fans will remember the lineup card snafu in January that kept McCollum out of a 109-98 loss against L.A., when Clippers coach Doc Rivers got his revenge against Stotts and opted to enforce a technicality regarding the NBA’s policies for its game-to-game inactive lists. A healthy McCollum watched from the bench as the tension that began way back in the preseason reached a fever pitch just a few short months later.
As luck would have it, the Blazers and Clippers met up for a first-round playoff matchup last spring.
Los Angeles started the best-of-seven series using the defensive skills of Chris Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute to bottle up Portland’s backcourt of Lillard and McCollum, effectively limiting the Blazers’ two leading scorers in the first two games of the series and winning by a combined 41 points.
Unfortunately for fans in L.A., the All-Star duo of Paul and Blake Griffin weren’t healthy enough to finish the series, and the Clippers limped to the finish line. Spirited efforts from Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford weren’t enough to prevent Los Angeles from once again falling short of postseason expectations, and Portland sent the Clippers home for good after four straight wins.
The Blazers and L.A. met up this preseason, again going down to the wire in an exhibition contest that may have proven that time has only served to fan the flames of the rivalry between the two teams.
Both the Clips and Blazers opted to bring back their core units from 2015-16 this offseason, only adding ancillary players and hoping health and natural development would be enough to build on recent successes.
Can Lillard keep his hot start to the season going tonight against a Los Angeles backcourt that has historically given him fits? Will Stotts send Jordan to the line three-dozen times again?
Either way, the rivalry between the Clippers and Blazers appears to be alive and well, and if recent match-ups between the two teams are any indication, the beef won’t be settled any time soon.
-- Chris Lucia | email@example.com | @ChrisLuciaPDX