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Portland Trail Blazers vs. LA Clippers Preview

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Portland looks to keep things rolling against the West’s second-best team.

Portland Trail Blazers v LA Clippers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (32-38) vs. LA Clippers (46-22)

Saturday, August 8 - 10:00 a.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Hassan Whiteside (doubtful), Rodney Hood (out), Trevor Ariza (opted out), Caleb Swanigan (opted out)
Clippers injuries: Patrick Beverley (out), Montrezl Harrell (out)
How to watch on TV: NBC Sports Northwest, TNT
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation

The Portland Trail Blazers face another tough challenge as they continue their pursuit of the 8-seed. Portland is 3-1 in Orlando after a 125-115 win over Denver on Thursday. The Blazers are now only one game behind the Memphis Grizzlies but only one game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs.

The LA Clippers are currently a game and a half ahead of the Denver Nuggets for the 2-seed. LA is 2-2 so far in the restart with wins over the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks and losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. The Clippers are 2-0 against Portland this season.

What to watch for

  • Defending LA’s wings. One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses is their wing defense. Their only loss in the bubble so far was to a Celtics team loaded with talented wings (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward combined for 86 points in the game), and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. gave the Blazers plenty of problems in Thursday’s win. Unfortunately this is one of the Clippers’ biggest strengths. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George—two of the best in the league—are averaging 27 and 26 points per game, respectively, in Orlando. The Blazers will have their work cut out for them trying to slow down LA’s best players.
  • A three-point contest. Portland has been shooting the lights out from beyond the arc in Orlando. They are hitting 47.2 percent from three so far after connecting on a team record 23-of-39 against Denver on Thursday. The Clippers aren’t far behind, shooting 44.1 percent on their three-point attempts since the restart. LA is better at defending the three-point line (opponents are shooting 37 percent against them vs. 42.1 percent against Portland) although they haven’t been as good in Orlando as they were before NBA play was suspended. This game could come down to who wins the three-point battle.
  • Can Gary Trent Jr. keep it up? While some pegged Gary Trent Jr. as a potential breakout player, I don’t think anyone expected him to be as good as he has been the past four games. The former Duke Blue Devil is scoring 20.3 points per game, shooting an astonishing 62.9 percent from three on over eight attempts per game, while playing outstanding defense. His play has been remarkably consistent, too, as he’s hit at least four 3’s in each of Portland’s games. The Blazers will likely need Trent Jr. to continue to be effective on both ends of the floor to get the win in this one.

What they’re saying

Blake Harris of Clips Nation wrote about Ivica Zubac after the Clippers center became the first player in the shot clock era to put up 20 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 100 percent from the field in under 30 minutes:

Zubac attributes all his recent success to his conditioning. He said that he’s finally getting the feel back and is remembering the best spots on the court for him. He says he feels like he can stay on the floor for a while. He’s able to run the floor, fight in the post, and grab rebounds. It’s taken every aspect of his game to the next level.

Andrew Greif of the LA Times noted the Clippers’ transition defense after their victory over the Mavericks:

Since seeding games began, the Clippers had limited opponents to only seven fastbreak points per game — a whopping half of what they’d allowed before suspension of play. Dallas found no luck, either, after scoring zero points in transition Thursday.

Ryan Snellings of Clipperholics makes a suggestion Blazer fans could surely get behind: rest Leonard and George on Saturday:

For the Clippers, the Saturday tipoff is early at 1:00 PM EST. This equates to a 10:00 AM PST start time for their bodies which have probably partially adjusted to east coast time but probably haven’t all the way. When players come out sluggish, mistakes happen which makes injury concerns raise.

The second reason is due to the game on Saturday being the first of a back-to-back. This game is likely the harder of the two with the second game on Sunday coming against a skeleton crew Brooklyn Nets. If the Clips are satisfied with going 1-1 over these two games, they should look at Brooklyn as an easier win that they can pull off while not playing Kawhi and PG big minutes.