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Clippers at Portland - Game Preview and Open Thread

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2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Lac1_70_medium

vs.
Por_70_medium

4-17
15-9
The Rose Garden
December 12th, 2008, 7:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Steve Blake
Eric Gordon SG Brandon Roy
Al Thornton SF Nicholas Batum
Zach Randolph PF LaMarcus Aldridge
Marcus Camby C Greg Oden

The Big Picture:

It's been so long since the Clippers have played a basketball game, I've almost forgotten what it feels like to lose. Boom! Take that Leno! Seriously though, after three full days off, at least the team should be well rested. The last time they played, they took a 9 point lead into the fourth quarter against the Magic, and proceeded to give up a 22-2 run and lose the game. You'd think that sort of collapse would be some sort of a one a season fluke, but sadly it's a fairly regular occurrence for the Clippers. Can I muster some enthusiasm for them turning things around? Well, it could happen I suppose. Maybe a few extra days of practice with Zach Randolph has helped (this is, after all, the first extended practice time they've had since Z-Bo joined the team). Maybe Baron Davis is feeling better after having some days off. I still expect the Clippers to get hot at some point this season - there's too much talent on the team, and I certainly don't want to think of any of the players as quitters. But I somehow don't think this is the night.

The Antagonist:

Portland has played twice since the Clippers last played. In fact, they lost both games. Which means that the Clippers have a better record than the Blazers since Dec. 9. See, here's the thing. Think way back to the beginning of the season, when the Clippers were 0-0 and tied for first place in the Conference. Maybe even think back to that first pre-season game against the Lakers. Those were some good times. And the general feeling was that the Nuggets playoff spot was up for grabs, and that the Blazers were the Clippers top competition for that spot. Well, the Blazers have exceeded most people's expectations, and the Clippers have been the biggest disappointment in the league. Interestingly, the Blazers are 15-9 without a major contribution from Greg Oden so far, and with basically nothing from Jerryd Bayless. Oden's been fine, if a bit of a downer for some - but he's not even in the discussion for rookie of the year. Rudy Fernandez on the other hand, is in that discussion. But the team's improvement has mostly been the result of having a talented young core that has been playing together for a while now. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are as good a yong duo as there is in the NBA. This team is better than I thought they'd be, and they're going to get better still.

The Subplots

  • Same results versus the Magic. Both of these teams suffered late collapses to the Magic this week. We're well aware of the Clippers foibles. The Blazers had an 8 point lead with 2 minutes to go, and gave up the final 9 points of the game. Ouch. I guess it just goes to show that it's not just the Clippers who fall apart some times.
    Big centers. For the third time in Zach Randolph brief Clipper career, the Clippers are coming up against a very large opposing center. Against Yao and Dwight Howard, MDsr choose to defend the center position with Zach, letting Marcus Camby take the power forward and hopefully get some more weak side blocked shots. I assume they'll matchup the same way tonight. Unfortunately, Aldridge is a deadly accurate shooter. He doesn't have Rahsard Lewis' range, but he may be the best mid-range shooter in the league - and I'm not limiting the category to big men. This guy can flat shoot, so Marcus can't really afford to be roaming around.
    Defending Roy. It will be interesting to see how MDsr decides to defend Brandon Roy. I assume he'll use Gordon, who has frankly proven to be a more reliable defender than Baron Davis so far this year. EJ is giving away a lot of height to the 6'6" Roy, and of course he's a tough cover for anyone, let alone a rookie. Roy has gone for season highs in each of the last two games (30 and 33). But it's worth noting that both were losses. So the key to beating the Blazers, apparently, is to let Roy score 30.
    Zach Randolph in Portland. I assume that Zach Randolph will be pretty loudly booed tonight. When he was traded to the Knicks last year, no one in the city seemed too upset about it. This is only Zach's second trip back to the Rose Garden in a different uniform. He had a pretty good game the first time as a Knick - 25 and 13 in an OT loss last February.
  • Superstar for one Game. I'm going to go with Sergio Rodriguez here. I figure, foreign-born point guard - after Udrih and Barea, how can I go wrong?
    Brandon Calling. If you don't recall, or possibly weren't a citizen at the time, I lost a strange bet with Dave from Blazers Edge last year. As the result of a Clipper loss, I had to write a song for the Blazers. I didn't like losing, but I was rather proud of my songwriting effort. There's a reference to 'phony Z-Bo-mania' in there. Extra ironic now.
    Check out the Blazers perspective at Blazers Edge.