Portland Trail Blazers (11-13) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (12-12)
The Portland Trail Blazers appear to be at an incredibly dangerous point in the season. After two very poor games in a row at home, it’s beginning to feel that life without Damian Lillard is going to be desperate. With Dame out for a home-heavy stretch, the team simply can’t afford to be uncompetitive until he gets back. The best thing that can be said about the Blazers’ epic 145-117 destruction at the hands of the Boston Celtics is that they don’t have to wait long to get another chance to right the ship.
The Los Angeles Clippers come to town as losers of four of their last five. On Saturday they lost by a score of 104-99 to the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento. Like the Blazers, the Clippers have more questions than answers at the moment, and like Portland, they are dealing with some key absences that aren’t helping matters. This game is an opportunity for either team to regain some confidence. For the loser, it will be more questions and more doubts.
Monday, December 6 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Anfernee Simons (out), Nassir Little (questionable), CJ McCollum (probable)
Clippers injuries: Kawhi Leonard (out), Jason Preston (out), Nicolas Batum (doubtful)
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation
What To Watch For
Basic competence on defense. While the Blazers’ defense has been suspect for some time, there simply isn’t a reason for a group of NBA professionals to give up 145 points in a game to anyone. Boston shot 56.8% from deep on 37 shots against the Blazers while actually shooting slightly worse from inside the arc. The Clippers average 105.9 points a game and shoot 35.3% from beyond the arc. It is too much to ask for the Blazers to hold them to under 110 points and 40% from three? We’ll see.
Win the turnover battle. Over the last 5 games Portland is tied for first for the fewest turnovers per game, and they’ve been rather good at holding on to the ball all season. The Clippers have been sloppier than that by a good margin this season, and over the last 5 of their games they are tied for 28th. This is an area where the Blazers could have a tangible advantage.
Win the first quarter. The Blazers need a boost of confidence, and the best way to do that is to jump on your opponent early. Against San Antonio, the Blazers were down by 10 after the first quarter, and against Boston the figure was 15. That’s no way to win a basketball game. The Clippers aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders, so it is critical to not allow them to get a big lead early. If Portland can win the first quarter, maybe some of those doubts and bad feelings the Blazers have been experiencing will instead by in the heads of the Clippers.
What Others Are Saying
The Blazers aren’t the only team trying to figure things out. Mirjam Swanson of Southern California News Group sheds some light on where the Clippers are at.
Against the Lakers, the Clippers — who now are 12-12 entering Monday’s game in Portland — executed what Lue called “the blueprint,” moving the ball and painting and spraying, their way of talking about attacking the paint and letting it fly from 3-point range.
But when they failed to replicate that effort 24 hours later in Sacramento, they left themselves with some explaining to do.
The Clippers season hasn’t gone exactly to plan, but Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes that the Blazers could be just what the doctor ordered .
Their antidote could be a Portland defense that, since these teams’ last meeting Nov. 9, has turned into a sieve, producing the NBA’s worst defensive rating, at 118.5 points per 100 possessions allowed, and allowed the highest opponent effective field goal percentage of 56.2.%.
Will Bjarnar of Clips Nation sings the praises of Isaiah Hartenstein.
Hartenstein has yet to start a game this season, but in 23 appearances, he’s been a force, pouring in better and more consistent averages than he ever has in four seasons. (Some of those averages may have been higher last season in Cleveland, but let’s face it: numbers in Cleveland over the last few years have been mostly inconsequential.) Currently, he’s averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds, both of which increase to 17 and 11.3, respectively, when weighed on a per-36 minutes scale. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging 4.3 offensive rebounds, which has him hovering alongside players like Clint Capela, Robert Williams III, and Kevon Looney. He’s an incessant board-crasher; few players in the league can compare.