A mere 22 hours after they finished playing a game in Portland, the Clippers and Blazers played another one in LA. And while the outcome looks the same in the standings, the two games were very, very different. Where both teams shot lights out on Friday (55% and 56%), both struggled mightily on Saturday (38% and 39%). Although it should be noted that 39% for the Clippers is far from their worst shooting night against Portland this season - they shot 31% on 2/27. It almost goes without saying that the Blazers swept the season series against the Clippers, 3-0.
Early in the season when I looked at the strange scheduling quirk that had the Clippers facing the Blazers 0 times in almost five months, followed by 3 meetings after the All Star Break, I felt a little sorry for the Blazers. After all, given the conventional wisdom at the time, it seemed the Blazers were likely to face Elton Brand in three season meetings where all the other teams in the league would avoid the Clippers' best player for most of the season. Instead, Brand remained out, and more Clipper stars joined him on the sideline, and the Blazers managed to go 3-0 against a Clipper's team missing both Brand AND Chris Kaman (and many others of course) in all three meetings. So much for scheduling quirks.
The story of this game is the Clippers injury-induced absurd absence of size. Josh Powell (6'9", 225), an undersized power forward is currently the Clippers' starting center. Al Thornton (6'8", 220), a natural small forward, has been forced to play power forward. From the opening tap they were matching up against Joel Przybilla (7'1", 255) and LaMarcus Aldridge (6'11", 240). To make matters worse, because Aldridge is the bigger scoring threat, the Clippers put Powell on him, leaving Thornton on Przybilla, giving away at least 5 inches and 35 pounds, not to mention about a foot in reach.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Al shot 4 for 21 in the back-to-backs. The guy was exhausted from leaning on a 7 footer on defense, and consequently he didn't have his legs under him on his jumper.
On the other end of that match up, as the only big man with legitimate NBA size, Przybilla had his way on the boards. He finished with a career-high 25 rebounds, 7 of those on the offensive end, and also shot 7 for 10 for 14 points. The Clippers searched all game long for a way to match up with Aldridge (who finished with 21 and 10) and Przybilla, but to no avail. MDsr probably should have given more minutes to Nick Fazekas (who had 9 rebounds in 17 minutes).
Instead, in an act of desperation, he tried the 6'3" Cat Mobley on Aldridge so he could put Powell on Przybilla. MDsr's reliance on his Blanket is a common-theme on this blog. But his tendency to have him defend against some really big guys is perhaps the strangest manifestation. Yes, Cat's had success defending the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki and to a lesser extent Lamar Odom. But it's one thing to stick him on Nowitzki when no one else can stop him, and he's far and away the Mavs best option. At the end last night, with Cat on Aldridge, Al Thornton was left checking Brandon Roy, who is, after, the Blazers best player. I'm not sure how that made sense.
Still, it's hard to fault the coach. He just really didn't have enough arrows in his quiver last night. And the ones he had were all short.