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Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers Preview

The Blazers travel to L.A. in search of consecutive win No. 13 against a Clipper team on the outside edge of the playoff race.

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (43-26) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (37-31)

Sunday, March 18th - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Clippers injuries: Danilo Gallinari (out), Avery Bradley (out), Patrick Beverley (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBATV
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTVPass
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation

The Blazers have consecutive win No. 13 in their sights as they take on the Los Angeles Clippers on the road. Portland will be on a quick turnaround, winning the first game of their back-to-back 100-87 over the Detroit Pistons. It looked for a while that the Blazers would be able to rest their starters for most of the second half, but it didn’t work out that way. Poor shooting from beyond the arc and some sloppy execution forced the starters to log more minutes than the Blazers probably wanted, but the result was never seriously in doubt.

The Clippers will be better rested, but perhaps not in the best mood. They played Thursday against the Houston Rockets and Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, losing both games. Against Houston they had a real chance to win, trailing by two points with less than 30 seconds to go, before succumbing 101-96. On the second night of the back-to-back, the Clippers didn’t really have the legs against the Thunder, but still fought valiantly if unsuccessfully.

What to watch for

  • Points. Lots of points. The Clippers haven’t held a team to under 100 points in over five weeks. There is no reason to think that trend will change against the Blazers. However, the Clippers are capable of putting up points themselves, scoring over 110 points in seven of their last eight games. A real shootout is a distinct possibility.
  • Can the Blazers get some points on the break? The bad news: the Blazers are the worst team in the league at fast break points, scoring only 7.6 fast break points per game. The good news: the Clippers give up the most fast break points per game at 15.2. The Blazers have proven that they don’t absolutely need to run to win games, but getting some easy buckets on the break sure makes life easier, especially on the road when a breakaway dunk can quiet the crowd. Expect the Blazers to try and get out on the break more than usual.
  • Beware of the cornered Clippers. The Clippers are up against it. Currently in ninth place, they have 14 games left, including tough games against Minnesota, Toronto, Utah, Denver, New Orleans, Milwaukee twice and the Blazers twice. The playoffs are certainly still possible, but they can’t afford to squander any more games. Expect to see a team that comes out strong and with energy. The edge leans towards the Blazers given the way they are playing now, but if they can’t match the desire and tempo of the Clippers, consecutive win No. 13 might prove to be elusive.

What they’re saying

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes that the Clippers know that their margin for error for the making the playoffs is slim:

The Clippers have 14 regular-season games left to make a stand, each player knowing that winning or losing can change their fate in a matter of hours.

”It’s kind of the way it is,” Tobias Harris said late Friday night. “With that being said, at the end of the day, you’ve got to be mentally strong too and understand that you can’t look at where it’s at right now. You just got to handle your business and look ahead and just be ready for every single opponent and be ready to do what you have to do to control what you can control, really.

In a season filled with turmoil, one might think that this has been an unpleasant year for Clippers coach Doc Rivers. According to Elliot Teaford of The Daily Breeze, one would be wrong:

Nothing has come easily for Rivers and the Clippers this season, his fifth with the team and his 19th overall in the NBA. Their roster has been decimated by injuries since the first half of their second game of the season. They traded one superstar before the season, and another during it.

Exit guard Chris Paul (in a trade to Houston), enter Milos Teodosic (via free agency).

Exit forward Blake Griffin (in a trade to Detroit), enter Tobias Harris (via the same deal).

“It’s been a tough year in a lot of ways, but it’s also been an enjoyable year,” Rivers said the other day. “This team does remind me of my first year in coaching (with the Orlando Magic in 1999-2000) with Darrell (Armstrong) and all those guys because they just don’t blink.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers earned himself a $15,000 fine reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers was fined $15,000 Friday after he called the free throw discrepancy in Thursday’s 101-96 loss to the Houston Rockets ”a complete joke.”

”I don’t say much about officiating,” Rivers said to preface his complaints. “They shot 41 3s, we shot 18. We doubled them in the amount of points in the paint. And it was 24-8 in free throws. That’s a joke. That’s a complete joke.”