The Blazers will have the opportunity to take down the preseason favorite to come out of the Western Conference in a nationally televised showdown. Meanwhile, the stalwart Clippers team is eyeing a victory to maintain their half-game lead over Portland.
Shortly after cleaning up their act with a 132-129 overtime victory over the New York Knicks, the Blazers descended back into their recent losing ways, dropping a key game to the Brooklyn Nets on the road by fourteen points. Portland has lost five of their last six and are searching for ways to return to the glory of their ever-so-impressive 10-4 start to the 2022-23 campaign.
The Clippers are on the upswing, winning four of their last six, after a pedestrian 8-7 record through their first 15 games. The story of their season has been the limited minutes that Kawhi Leonard has received. They’ve clawed their way (no pun intended) to the fifth seed in the Western Conference, and are doing so with their alpha at half strength, or half usage that is. Regardless, the Clippers have looked strong as of late and are eyeing another victory to continue their ascent.
Clippers vs. Blazers — Tuesday, November 29, 2022 — 7:00 p.m. PT
How to Watch: TNT, Root Sports Plus, Clippervision, KTLA
Blazers Injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Gary Payton II (out), Keon Johnson (out)
Clippers Injuries: Kawhi Leonard (out), Paul George (out), John Wall (out - rest), Luke Kennard (out)
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation
What to Watch For
- Trap Reggie Jackson and Key in on Marcus Morris Sr: The Clippers are the worst offensive team in the NBA, putting up a skeletal 106.4 points per game. They are without their two best offensive scorers — Leonard and George — and their main weapon off the bench — Wall. They will also be without one of the best 3-point shooting marksmen in the league in Kennard. Therefore, one has to ask themselves, how many Clippers can create their own shot time and time again to muster up a victory? The answer lies with Jackson and Morris. Jackson loves to dance with the ball, attempt to lull players to sleep with dribble moves, and pull up off the dribble. Morris can kill you in a multitude of ways — either out of the post, on the face-up or off the bounce. Limiting these two will accentuate the dearth of offense that Los Angeles has. It would be wise for head coach Chauncey Billups to actually implement a man defense over his patented zones this time around. As good an offensive talent as Jackson is, he isn’t one to garner a box-and-one zone, so trapping him in the high screen-and-roll and forcing the ball out of his hands will do well to keep the Clippers scrambling for facilitation elsewhere.
- Be Aggressive, Be, Be Aggressive: That’s what Blazers cheerleaders should be chanting at every dead ball, every live ball, and every possession for crying out lout. Portland gets to the line more than any other team in the association save the Detroit Pistons. With an undermanned Clippers opponent, Rip City must keep their foot on the gas and be aggressive. Jusuf Nurkic has found success in the post this year. The Blazers should go to him often, in attempts to get Ivica Zubac in foul trouble. Granted, that might poke the bear and awaken one Moses Brown — a workhorse and absolute sleeper off of their bench — but getting as many starters off the floor quick and in a hurry will do well for the Blazers. For a team that gets to the line that frequently however, Portland is No. 23 in percentage, at 77 percent flat. Getting to the charity stripe will mean nothing if they have no charity to receive.
- Contest Shots From Outside: All season long has this horse been beaten to a pulp. It is beyond dead, and the stink of its carcass has not reached the nostrils of the Blazers to incite more urgency on the defensive end when shots are put up. First it was twice against Miami, then Utah ran amuck from distance, then Yuta Watanabe became Bruce Bowen from the corner pocket and burned Rip City. It’s high time that, whether in man or zone, shooters get stifled from deep. Taking away the long ball speaks for itself. It doesn’t even need to be spelled out what that can do for a team. Nobody is perfect. No team is perfect. Portland has done a great job thus far this season in most areas when fully healthy. But with or without Dame in the rotation, this has been a major flaw, deleterious to the fortunes of the ball club. Get a hand up, and eradicate the three-point prowess of the Clippers who are as middle of the pack as they come in that area, and a blowout victory could be on the horizon.
What Others are Saying
Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian contextualized Damian Lillard’s impact on the Blazers, and just how much they miss his services:
“That reality has helped illustrate just how valuable Lillard is to the Blazers. They are 7-2 in games that Lillard starts and finishes. The Blazers are 4-5 when he does not play and they lost both games he left early with an injury,” Fentress pointed out. “If winning percentages held up in this equation, the Blazers could be 15-6 with a healthy Lillard.”
Colin Ward-Henninger spotlighted John Wall and his exceedingly effective impact off of the Clippers’ bench thus far:
Nearly a quarter of the way into the season, however, the returns have exceeded expectations. Wall has carved out a role as the backup point guard for the Clippers, while averaging 12.3 points and 5.4 assists in just over 22 minutes per game. His crowning achievement — so far, at least — was a 15-assist clinic against the Spurs in just 24 minutes. No Clipper had dished out 15 assists in a game since Chris Paul in 2017, and Wall became the first player in NBA history to have nine assists off the bench in the first quarter.
A week later, he notched a season-high 23 points against the Denver Nuggets on 8-for-10 shooting.