Portland Trail Blazers (12-13) at Los Angeles Clippers (17-7)
Dec. 12, 2016, 7:30 PST
Watch: CSN NW; NBA TV Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Al-Farouq Aminu (doubtful), Festus Ezeli (out)
Clippers injuries: Raymond Felton (out), Blake Griffin (questionable), Brice Johnson (out)
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation
After losing three straight road games, including the last two in which they coughed up a fourth quarter lead, the road doesn’t get any easier for the Portland Trail Blazers. Tonight they head to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers.
After a hot start to the season, the Clippers have cooled considerably of late, losing five of their last eight. However they still pose significant match-up problems for a Blazer team that has fallen to the Clippers twice already this season.
Blake Griffin, L.A.’s leading scorer, sat out Saturday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans with a sore right knee and is questionable to play against Portland. Griffin missing a second straight game would be a huge plus for Portland, as Al-Farouq Aminu - who defended Griffin relatively well in last year’s first round playoff match up - is doubtful with a lower back injury after taking a hard fall in Memphis.
Should Griffin play, his athleticism combined with his ability to score and facilitate from above the foul line poses problems for any of Portland’s big men that would start in Aminu’s place.
Even if Griffin doesn’t suit up against Portland, the Clippers are still loaded with weapons, starting with point guard Chris Paul. Paul, playing at a near-MVP level so far this season, is coming off of the NBA’s first 20 point, 20 assist, 0 turnover game since at least 1983. Paul is one of the best pick-and-roll point guards in the game and, given Portland’s difficulty handling the pick and roll combined with a defensive system that encourages allowing the mid-range jumper, is capable of carving up the Blazer defense on any given night.
Paul’s frequent pick-and-roll partner, monster center Deandre Jordan, averages nearly 13 rebounds per game while altering countless shots en route to a block and a half per game.
Beyond the big-three, Los Angeles is receiving more production from their supporting cast than in recent years. J.J. Redick continues to shoot around 45 percent from the 3-point line and Jamal Crawford continues to have moments of igniting the offense all on his own. But the Clippers are also receiving significant contributions from secondary players such as Austin Rivers, Marreese Speights, and Luc Mbah a Moute.
After playing the Clippers twice already this season, once in the preseason, and six times last postseason, the Blazers know what to expect from this L.A. team. The Clippers are extremely efficient and are no. 5 in offense, have the league’s no. 3 defense, and lead the NBA in free throws attempted per game. The Blazers are going to need someone besides Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to step up and carry the offensive load and the entire team is going to need to play significantly better defense than they have of late if Portland is going to have a fighter’s chance.