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Portland Trail Blazers vs. LA Clippers Preview

The Blazers hope for a win in a matchup between surprising early season division leaders.

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NBA: Preseason-Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (3-1) vs. LA Clippers (3-0)

Thursday, October 26th - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Noah Vonleh (out), Meyers Leonard (doubtful)
Clippers injuries: Milos Teodosic (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation

The Blazers won their 17th straight home opener on Tuesday with a 103-93 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. They’ll face a tougher challenge at home Thursday against the red hot, revamped Clippers who will be playing their first game outside of Staples Center (their one road game was against the Lakers).

The Clippers roster went through a lot of changes this past offseason. Gone are All-Star point guard Chris Paul, starters JJ Redick and Luc Mbah a Moute, and key reserves like Jamal Crawford and Marreese Speights. They added starters Patrick Beverly and Danilo Gallinari as well as Lou Williams and Sam Dekker. So far this year, the Clippers have looked great. They are undefeated and have been outscoring opponents by an NBA-best 25.3 points per game. Portland is second, outscoring opponents by 18.2 points on average.

What to watch for

  • Can Portland break through a tough Clippers defense? While the Blazers’ defense has been a welcome surprise so far this season—they are near the top of the league, allowing only 94 points per game, and have only surrendered one 30-point quarter in four games—the Clippers have been dominant on that end. They lead the league in points allowed per game with only 88. Opponents are only shooting 40.7 percent against them from the field and 25 percent from three. Lillard, especially, will have his work cut out for him as Patrick Beverly has made life difficult for opposing point guards.
  • Who will win the battle of the boards? Portland’s edge in rebounding (63 to 42) played a big role in their win over the Pelicans. The Blazers have outrebounded each of their opponents this season and are leading the NBA with an average of 53.2 rebounds per game. The Clippers aren’t far behind, averaging 51.7. DeAndre Jordan has been a monster, pulling down 18.3 boards per game.
  • Can the Blazers slow down Griffin? Blake Griffin has gotten off to a hot start. He’s averaging 26.7 points per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three on 6 attempts per game. The Blazers, coming off a game where they gave up 39 points to DeMarcus Cousins, will need to slow down Griffin if they want to hand LA its first loss.

What they’re saying

Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated counts the volume and efficiency of Griffin’s 3-point shooting as one of the surprises of the season. Writing before Tuesday’s game against the Jazz, Mahoney had this to say:

At long last, Blake Griffin is a three-point shooter. It’s amazing how long it can take—whether due to their particular roles or some associated mental block—for a player comfortable shooting 20-footers to back up just a few feet beyond the three-point line. Griffin is finally there. After dabbling with the three for the first time in earnest last season, Griffin is launching up 5.5 threes per game and connecting on 54.5%. After two games, he has more three-point makes than Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, Mike Conley, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kemba Walker. What is a defense to do when Griffin can handle, bully his way through coverage, and now demand the kind of attention that could clear a runway?

USA Today’s Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt list the possibility that the Clippers end the season as the NBA’s best defense as one of their “unfiltered overreactions” to the first week of the season:

The Los Angeles Clippers will lead the league in defensive rating: With Patrick Beverley at the point, DeAndre Jordan at center and capable defenders in between, this one might not be a reach. The Clippers hold the NBA's top spot in this category through three games allowing 86.1 points per 100 possessions and have held opponents under 100 points in all three games thus far (wins over the Lakers, Suns and Jazz). A quick reminder, though: Last season's Clippers held opponents to under 100 points in seven of their first eight games, then finished 13th in defensive rating (105.8).