The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. Portland won the season series last season 3 games to 1.
The Big Picture:
I'm writing this preview late Friday night, before I leave for Tahoe. The Clippers have yet to play Boston, the Blazers haven't played Philadelphia. If those games go according to script, the Clippers will be taking a four game losing streak into the Rose Garden, while the Blazers will be riding a five game winning streak. If the Clippers have indeed lost to Boston as expected, it will be desperation time in this game. If they manged to pull off another Celtics upset, then they'll be a rejuvenated team. At any rate, against Portland they need to pummel them down low. With Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla both hurt, the Blazers are down to Juwan Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge and a couple guys you've never heard of who are over 6'7". Chris Kaman should (emphasis on should) have a big game against them.
Houston and Portland are Coach Mike Dunleavy Sr's worst nightmares. Why? Because they've both suffered far more injuries this season than the Clippers - and hung in the playoff race despite their misfortune. MDsr's ongoing excuse, now entering it's 853rd consecutive day, is that his team has been too wracked with injuries to be able to compete for a playoff spot (or apparently to compete at all). The Blazers and Rockets prove that it's not impossible. Portland's case is particularly baffling. Currently they are without three small forwards (Nicholas Batum, Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez), two centers (Oden and Przybilla) and one rookie guard (Patty Mills). It looked like the accumulation of injuries had finally reached critical mass when the Blazers went 4 and 7 in early December. Then Przybilla went down, and you figured that was it, they were done - and instead they went on a winning streak! Not just any winning streak either - wins over the Mavs, Spurs and Nuggets, the three best teams in the Western Conference who don't wear purple. Of course, as many injuries as Portland has had, none of them have been to their two best players, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Those guys (Roy in particular) could probably win some games no matter who you line up next to them.
- Defending Roy. With so much size out of the lineup, Roy will end up playing in a three guard lineup a lot. That will likely put either Al Thornton or Rasual Butler on him. If Eric Gordon draws the assignment it will be intersting to watch and see how EJ does. The bigger, superstar twos of the league (Kobe, Roy, DWade) will likely give him trouble. Then again, they give a lot of people trouble.
- Marcus vs. LaMarcus. LaMarcus isn't Rashard Lewis - he doesn't shoot a lot of threes. But he's a jump shooting 611" guy, and you have to get up on him or he'll go off. Marcus Camby may or may not be ready for this game - I'm a little out of the loop on this one, so you guys probably know more than me on Camby's health for this game. If he does play, he's GOT to get up on Aldridge's jump shot. He'll kill the Clippers on midrange jumpers if Marcus is hanging around the rim looking for blocked shots. When the Blazers go small, the task may fall on Kaman.
Jerryd Bayless. Bayless was on a lot of people's short lists when the Clippers were picking seventh in the 2008 draft. When the Clippers turn came around, Bayless was still on the board, but LA went with Eric Gordon, and Bayless lasted all the way to Portland picking eleventh. When Bayless lit up the 2008 Vegas Summer League, it looked like maybe they'd gotten a steal. But Jerryd never really cracked coach Nate McMillan's rotation last year. Again this season he was having trouble finding minutes - until McMillan was more or less forced to play him given all of the injuries. Bayless has responded with games of 29 and 31 points in the last couple of weeks.
- Going small. The Blazers are more or less forced to play small at this point - half of their rotation plays the guard position, so they're bound to have three of them out there a lot. Roy's plenty big enough to play the three, and Bayless is better as a combo guard anyway, so it's not really a big deal. The Clippers are going to have to counter with big minutes from Baron Davis and Eric Gordon, unless either Sebastian Telfair or Mardy Collins can step up and play a little better. Collins may get his crack at Roy today from a matchup standpoint.
- Steve in Tahoe. I won't be watching this one - at least not until next week on the DVR. I'll be in Tahoe, and unless I can find a WiFi signal in the remote neighborhood of my in-law's cabin, I won't be watching on League Pass or even following the score. Citizen LJ Hann has volunteered to write the recap, so look for that in the FanPosts. And thanks for stepping up, citizen.
Yeah, but Globo Gym's got guys named Laser, and Blazer, and Tazer, and all kinds of "azer's"! Without Patches, we're going to get our taints handed to us, that's what!
- Get the Blazers perspective at Blazersedge.