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Portland Trail Blazers vs. LA Clippers Preview

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The Blazers look to keep things rolling against a surprising Clippers team.

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (8-3) vs. LA Clippers (6-4)

Thursday, November 8 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Moe Harkless (out)
Clippers injuries: Avery Bradley (out); Luc Mbah a Moute (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 Trail Blazers look to continue their good play as they host the LA Clippers on Thursday. Portland is coming off an impressive 118-103 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Blazers are 3-1 in their current six-game home stand and have won five of their last six games. The only loss in that stretch was to that other Los Angeles team.

At 6-4 the Clippers have outperformed expectations so far this season. They have won their last two games and will be coming off two days rest. LA features a balanced attack with starters Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari each averaging 20+ points per game, and Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell contributing 19.1 and 12.1 points, respectively, off the bench.

What to watch for

  • Getting clean looks beyond the arc. Against the Bucks, Portland put up 43 three-point attempts and made 17. Don’t expect that against the Clippers. LA is only allowing 8.7 made threes per game—the best mark in the league. Their three-point attempts against (26.6) is tied for second best.
  • Keeping LA off the foul line. The Clippers are third in the league in free throw attempts with 29.5 per game. Unlike in past seasons this isn’t due to any hack-a-DeAndre Jordan strategy by their opponents. LA is making 82.7 percent of their foul shots and lead the league in made free throws with 24.4 per game. Blazer defenders will need to stay disciplined, especially Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic, who average 3.3 and 2.8 fouls per game, respectively.
  • CJ staying hot. CJ McCollum started this season fairly cold by his standards. Through the first eight games of the season, he was averaging only 17.9 points per game on a meager 40.4 percent shooting. While he had the occasional good performance during that stretch (24 points on 9-15 shooting against the Spurs for example), he wasn’t able to string together a series of good games (the Spurs game was followed by a 13-point, 5-25 shooting game against the Wizards). McCollum seems to have turned a corner recently. He put in 40 against the Bucks and has averaged 28.7 points over the past three games, shooting 50 percent or better in each of them. The Blazers hope McCollum can continue that against the Clippers. An ankle injury to Avery Bradley should help.

What they’re saying

Sabreena Merchant of Clips Nation highlighted 7’3” Boban Marjanovic’s move to the starting lineup:

Although Boban averaged only 9.6 minutes per game in October, his per-36 minutes averages of 26 points and 16 rebounds suggest a beast has been lurking within. He got 23 minutes in back-to-back games against Philadelphia and Orlando, more than either Marcin Gortat or Montrezl Harrell has been receiving, and his production has merited the bump. He posted back-to-back double-doubles and has been solid enough defensively to warrant the extra playing time.

Boban has a net rating of plus-9.6 this season, including a defensive rating of 98.0. He gobbles up offensive rebounds at a rate of 10.8 percent (courtesy of NBA.com). As his minutes have increased, his efficiency has remained the same. Boban will likely continue to start for a few more games, and he has earned the promotion.

The Ringer’s Paolo Uggetti wrote about how the Clippers refused to tank after trading away Chris Paul and Blake Griffin:

Conventional wisdom said they should have blown up the team post–Lob City and collected all the assets (in the form of young players and picks) they could get as they sold off the talent that had brought them the closest they’ve been to a title. Instead, they merely rebooted their software. They got Patrick Beverley in the deal for Paul, Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris in the deal for Griffin, and Marcin Gortat in a deal for Austin Rivers. They signed Danilo Gallinari in 2017 and Luc Mbah a Moute this summer, and they retained Lou Williams.

Now, just a few months later, this group of role players couldn’t be playing much better. Gallinari is — [knocks on all the wood] — healthy again and averaging 20 points a game on career-high 44.9 percent shooting from the field and a scorching 45.8 percent from 3. Harris keeps improving and is the competent wing the Clippers have been missing over the past six years. And rookie Gilgeous-Alexander looks like the team’s next great point guard.

Andrew Greif discussed how coach Doc Rivers is encouraging his team to shoot more threes and fewer long twos:

In a league recently conquered by the three-pointer — five years after Houston’s 26.4 attempts a game from deep led the league, that average would now rank 26th — the Clippers were falling behind entering Monday’s matchup against Minnesota. Only Cleveland, San Antonio and Indiana shot three-pointers at a lower frequency.

Knowing that, coach Doc Rivers devised a new practice rule the day before: Only two-point shots taken within the paint would count. “We were settling for too many contested twos,” Rivers said. “I thought our guys got that message.”

The Clippers (6-4) took a season-high 31 three-pointers and made 14 of them in the resulting 120-109 victory over the Timberwolves.