Clippers at Portland - Game Preview

LOS ANGELES CA - OCTOBER 27: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers splits the defense of Baron Davis #5 and Chris Kaman #35 of the Los Angeles Clippers during a 98-88 Blazer win at Staples Center on October 27 2010 in Los Angeles California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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4-16

8-11
The Rose Garden
December 5th, 2010, 6:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Andre Miller
Eric Gordon SG Brandon Roy
Al-Farouq Aminu
SF Wesley Matthews
Blake Griffin
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
DeAndre Jordan
C Marcus Camby

 

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

One could forgive the Clippers if they were feeling a little chafed after experiencing a 30 free throw deficit at the hands of the Nuggets and the officials Friday night in Denver in a game that they otherwise dominated. But fortunately or unfortunately, there's no time to brood on losses in the NBA, because there's always another game, and if the Clippers can manage a split on this mini-trip it will have been a mini-success. Other than the defeat, there was mostly good news coming out of Denver. The team is as healthy as it's been all season, with both Baron Davis and Chris Kaman playing effective minutes. Both were limited by foul trouble, but Baron played 20 minutes while Kaman played 13, and each looked really good - close to 100%, if not there already. In their brief appearances back from injury, both Davis and Kaman look much sharper than they did at the beginning of the season. With both of them back and in good form, added to the youngsters who gained invaluable experience in their absences, this is a very different Clippers team than we saw back in October, the first time they played the Blazers. Sadly, one suspects that the U23 squad won't be starting for much longer, but they did an admirable job. After getting roughed up a bit in Denver, one would not be surprised if Blake Griffin were to take some aggression out on the long, but not particularly strong, LaMarcus Aldridge tonight. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon wasn't getting any love from the rims or the refs in Denver, and I think he's due for a BIG game.

The Antagonist:

The Blazers are in free fall. They have the NBA's longest active losing streak at 6 games, and that string includes losses at Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Friday night in Washington. Brandon Roy missed one of those games, but he's been back and relatively productive for the others, so it's not just a question of injuries. Given that they found out that Greg Oden is out for the year (again) about the time the time they went into a tailspin, it would seem that the feeling of being snake bit has taken its toll on the team (a feeling we in Clips Nation know quite well). There is now talk of Nate McMillan's job being in trouble, and even Nate says that it seems as if the team "not responding to him". Yikes. A loss to the Clippers in Portland could be the final straw (coaches often get fired after losing to the Clippers, as it's considered the ultimate sin by owners). Roy may be back in the lineup, but there's little question that he has been hurting all season after knee surgery this summer. He's taken himself out in the final stages of some games, and sat out others altogether. Given that Roy has been the Blazers closer and go to scorer, if he's physically limited, especially late in games by wear and tear, it's a major blow to Portland. In addition to Roy, former Clipper Marcus Camby is currently experiencing some knee pain that limited him to 11 minutes Friday in Washington. The good news is that they did get Joel Przybilla back on Friday, so they're not quite as thin in the front court as they have been. In an effort to shake up his slumping team, McMillan has recently inserted Wesley Matthews into the starting lineup at small forward ahead of Nicolas Batum. But so far nothing has worked. The Blazers are led in scoring by Roy at 18.3 point per game, and LaMarcus Aldridge is close behind at 18.2.

The Subplots

  • Last six. The Clippers still have the worst record in the NBA at 4-16, and the Blazers may have twice as many wins. But over the last six games, the Clippers are 3-3 while the Blazers are 0-6, so the teams seem to be moving in opposite directions.
  • Back Home. The Blazers started their losing streak with a couple of home losses to Utah and New Orleans, but the last four losses have been on the road. They will no doubt be happy to be back in Portland, and anxious to snap the losing streak. They are 4-3 at home on the season.
  • Blessing or curse? Going into Friday's games, Citizen Zhiv and I were both hoping that Portland would win in Washington, rather than come into this game riding such an ominous losing streak, desperate for the win. On the other hand, losing to one of the league's worst teams, after leading by double digits at the half, indicates that the Blazers are truly in disarray right now, which could be good news.
  • Batum.  On opening night when these teams met, I said that the small forward job was indisputably Nic Batum's in my preview. I guess I was wrong. At 6'5", Matthews seems pretty small for an NBA small forward, but Roy is 6'6" so I guess between them they can handle the wings. Although Batum's scoring was actually up from last season, his shooting percentages are way down, from 52% to 45% overall and from 41% to 34% from deep. I like Batum and I'm surprised that they're limiting him so much (he played only 13 minutes a couple of games ago). But I think they figure with Roy being off, they need more punch in the starting lineup.
  • Clippers three guard set. I mentioned this possibility in a recent comment, I think, and then it happened briefly in the first half against the Nuggets. With Baron Davis back playing, Vinny Del Negro is going to experiment with a three guard lineup of Davis, Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon. The Blazers would be a good team to use that lineup against, as their small forwards (Matthews, Batum and Rudy Fernandez) all play more like shooting guards.
  • The Oden scenario. Everyone knows by now what's happening with Greg Oden. The Citizens of Clips Nation know what it's like to lose an exciting rookie first overall pick to injury for his first season. Imagine having that happen twice more. Oden just underwent his third knee surgery since being drafted in 2007 - microfracture surgery on his right knee, a fractured left knee cap, and now microfracture surgery on his left knee.
  • The other center injuries. After Oden when down last year, Przybilla soon followed and was out for the season. In pre-season this year, they lost Jeff Pendergraph for the season. Przybilla is now back, but the Blazers have been incredibly dependent on Camby in the meantime, which may not be such a great idea given Camby's age of injury history. Of course, they haven't had many options, and Camby has remained incredibly productive. He's still among the league leaders in rebounds per minute.
  • Best Shooting Guards in the NBA. If you were making a list of the best shooting guards in the NBA any time over the last several years, it would probably start with Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, and then it might go to Manu Ginobili and Brandon Roy. Well, depending on whether or not Roy can overcome his troublesome knee and given Eric Gordon's stepped up performance, I think you have to put Gordon into the conversation right after Bryant, Wade and Ginobili at this point. Roy's been much better at other points of his career, but this season Gordon is the more productive player. Entering this game, Gordon has a PER of 20.9 while Roy's is a career low 16.9.
  • So what's wrong with Roy? We get it that he's hurting and that he's not himself. But what is different about his production so far this season? Well, he's shooting a career low from the field, and he's also at career lows in rebounding and assists. Although Roy never looked super athletic, he was sneaky explosive. He seemed to work in slow motion, using a terrific change of pace and change of direction to get to the rim. But when the opportunity was there, he was able to explode and take it. I don't watch him every night, but from what I've seen and read, he's just not getting to the rim the way he used to, forcing him to shoot more jumpers. That would explain the decreased shooting percentage. Indeed, according to 82games, 66% of Roy's shots were jumpers in 08-09. That number rose to 74% last year as the injuries starting piling up, and is at 82% this season.
  • The U23s. I left the U23s as my probable starting lineup here because I have no specific knowledge that it's going to change tonight, but it's only a matter of time before Baron replaces Bledsoe and Kaman replaces Jordan in the first five. Separately, I wouldn't be surprised if Vinny Del Negro re-inserts Ryan Gomes in the starting lineup ahead of Aminu, not because he'll want the vets together, but because Gomes is the more effective player right now. Whatever happens, the youngsters have gained valuable experience the last few weeks, and though the lost a lot of games, they're miles ahead of where they would otherwise be in their development.
  • Superstar for one game.  Patty Mills. Mills, the second year Aussie out of St. Mary's in the WCC, has recently supplanted rookie Armon Johnson as the backup point guard in Portland. He missed most of his rookie season with an injury and has never gotten much chance to show what he can do. He's an explosive scorer, and has had some huge games in international competition. He played a career-high 18 minutes on Friday night.
  • Famous Quotation: 

    the blaze
    Is infinite, eternal: this is death,
    To die and know it. This is the Black Widow, death

    Robert Lowell, Mr. Edwards and the Spider
  • Get the Blazers perspective at Blazers Edge.
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