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Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers Preview

The Blazers look to bounce back against the other team in Los Angeles.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (3-4) at Los Angeles Clippers (5-3)

November 7, 2019 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out) Jusuf Nurkic (out), Pau Gasol (out)
Clippers injuries: Paul George (out)
How to watch on TV: TNT
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation

The Portland Trail Blazers arrive in Los Angeles fresh off a loss to the understaffed Golden State Warriors 127-118. Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 39 points, but team contributions weren’t enough to lift the Blazers over a young and thirsty Warriors squad.

The Clippers take on the Blazers following a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks 129-124. With Kawhi Leonard out due to load management, L.A. received strong performances from Montrezl Harrell (34 points, 13 rebounds), Lou Williams (34 points, 11 assists) and Patrick Beverley (20 points, 10 rebounds). A rested Leonard is a definite threat, given how close the Clippers came to toppling the Bucks without him.

What to watch for

  • Re-energized and reinvigorated. The Blazers were supposed to have a day off in Los Angeles, but after the loss to the Warriors, their plans changed. Instead, the team spent the day studying film. While it is early days yet, it is likely that the team’s experience in San Francisco served as a wake-up call.
  • Controlling game speed. Portland has really pushed the tempo on offense this season, leading to more buckets in transition. That isn’t a bad thing. However, the Clippers have one of the slowest paces in the league. Whoever manages to get the flow of the game to go their way will win it.
  • Digging in on defense. Expect that Hassan Whiteside will show up big time in Los Angeles. He made a mark on the game against the Warriors, and coming back from a bone bruise on his knee, he can only go up. Kent Bazemore does a lot with his active hands, generating steals and forcing turnovers. If there is a ball, he’s going to grab it. That said, the team needs to be mindful of their perimeter defense, which has been lacking in these first games.

What they’re saying

Jonathan Tjarks of the Ringer examines Kawhi’s dominance and how he elevates the Clippers:

The Clippers have looked unbeatable this season even without Paul George. They are tied for the NBA’s fourth-best record (5-2) and fifth-best net rating (plus-6.1) without their second-best player, but even that undersells their dominance. With Kawhi Leonard on the floor, they have a net rating of plus-18.2 in 183 minutes. By surrounding the best player in the world with waves of shooters and defenders at every position, the Clippers have become the clear favorite to win the NBA championship.

Over at Clips Nation, Chris Murch digs into the development of Ivica Zubac:

Overall, Zu is limiting opposing players to 36.7% from the field. On shots less than six feet, Zu is limiting opponents to an astounding 41.4%. When compared to what his opponents usually shoot from that range (61.8%), that’s insane. Overall, opponents shoot 11.8% worse when Zu is matched up with them. On two pointers, 19.3% worse. Shots less than 10 feet? 20% worse.

This goes to show that Zu’s defensive impact, with his 7’1” frame and 7’4” wingspan, is borderline diabolical. He is straight up shutting other players down (not to mention averaging a career high in blocks with 1.6 and setting a career high with five against the Hornets) and negating their effectiveness.

Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times explains how Maurice Harkless is a “Swiss Army knife” on his new squad:

The victory-clinching steal was illustrative of the appeal of Harkless, who had entered the game just 15 seconds earlier. That type of instant impact has been indicative of his time with the Clippers, and serves as a reminder of his massive potential.

Harkless “has one of the ideal NBA bodies from his height, strength, how he moves, athleticism,” said Ed Davis, a former teammate in Portland who now plays for the Jazz. “I like Moe’s game, man.”