This may mean that defense-first forward Luc Mbah a Moute could be switched out of the starting lineup for someone more offensive-minded - maybe even Paul Pierce. Jeff Green, who scored 17 points in Game 4, will more than likely replace Griffin at the power forward spot. The Clippers also could start Crawford, Rivers and Redick together if they were looking for scoring, or they could keep things simple and just swap Rivers and Green for Paul and Griffin. Whatever Doc Rivers decides on, the Clippers' rotation will be much different going forward. The Clippers are not a very deep team and may have to shake things up quite a bit. Whatever changes are made, expect the usage rates of Rivers and Crawford to be on the rise.
Strategically, it will be interesting to see how much the absence of Paul will effect the Clippers' defense. Lillard, although averaging 20.5 points per game in the series, has not played up to his normal standards. Aside from his 10-20, 32-point night in Game 3, Lillard is shooting just 31.4 percent from the field (17-for-54) during the other three games and 8-30 from 3-point range in the series as a whole. Lillard has being forcing tough shots and the defense of Chris Paul had a lot to do with that. Austin Rivers is a very good defender, but make no mistake - he is no Chris Paul.
The Clippers' on-ball traps on Lillard and the NBA's Most Improved Player award winner C.J McCollum were vital to the Clippers' defense in Games 1 and 2, but the Blazers have responded by putting
Steve Nash Mason Plumlee around the free throw line as a quick outlet from the trap. From there he has done a great job picking apart the ensuing 4-on-3 advantage. This not only led to him tallying up 26 assists in 3 games (He averaged 2.8 assists per game in the regular season) but it has created open 3-point opportunities on kickouts from the paint, which are the highest percentage 3-point shot. The Blazers' shooters have capitalized, shooting better in Game 4 from behind the 3-point line at 41.9 percent, than from inside it at 40.4. The Clippers have yet to adjust.
The Blazers were predicted by most to win less than 30 games this season. Then they were supposed to miss the playoffs. They were definitely never supposed to be the No. 5 seed in the West. Damian apparently wasn't playing well enough to be a 2016 All-Star and now Terry Stotts missed out on the NBA's Coach of the Year Award. The Blazers have been under-appreciated and underdogs all year long and they have excelled in that role. Now, for the first time all year long, the Blazers can, arguably, be considered favorites to do something special. This is a new role for them and they need to embrace it. Even without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers are a prideful team with a lot of experience. They will not go away easy.
The brand new series begins tonight.