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Clippers @ Portland - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
The Rose Garden
February 22nd, 2009, 3:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Steve Blake
Eric Gordon
SG Brandon Roy
Ricky Davis
SF Nicholas Batum
Al Thornton
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
DeAndre Jordan
C Joel Przybilla

The Back Story:

  • December 12, 2008, in Portland - Clippers 120 - Portland 112 Box Score  Recap
  • January 26, 2009, in LA - Portland 113 - Clippers 88 Box Score  Recap

The Big Picture:

When the Clippers gave up 140 and lost by 40 in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Milph were saying how great it was that they got to turn around and play the Suns again the next night.  They wouldn't have to stew in their juices, thinking about how humiliating it all was.  Nope.  They got to come right back and get humiliated again!  And after that, after two humiliations in the span of 28 hours, giving up 141 points per game, they got to wait four days for their next game.  So those juices should be getting pretty stewy by now.  What the deuce?  The trade deadline came and went without any changes, so the Clippers get to limp into Portland with the same beat up, size deprived lineup.  Kaman is still in his space time anomaly place, Zach is suspended and in Indiana with his ailing father, and Camby is grounded with his ruptured ear drum.  As it happens, the Clippers played the Blazers close for three quarters without those three back in late January.  We won't mention what happened in the fourth.  Baron had one of his biggest games of the season in the first meeting with the Blazers, scoring 27 and hitting a huge three pointer to send the game into OT.  Remember that?  That was back when we still believed that Baron could snap out of his funk this season.  What's that?  We still believe?  REALLY?

The Antagonist:

Portland is better than I thought they'd be this season; I'll admit it.  I thought they'd be suspect at point guard, but Steve Blake has played well for them.  I thought they might not get a lot from Greg Oden his rookie year coming back from surgery - and I was more or less right on that one.  But the simple fact of the matter is that Brandon Roy has become a top 10 player in the league, and has made the team this good.  In the last meeting, Roy was completely unstoppable - but he won't have the waived Cheikh Samb to dunk on tonight.  Of course, the power forward will be Al Thornton, and the backup center will be Steve Novak, so he can emasculate one of those guys instead.  The bad news for Portland is that Greg Oden is hurt - again.  He hurt his knee just before the All Star break where he was supposed to play in the Rookie Challenge, which he also sat out.  The good news is that Joel Przybilla has been terrific this season.

The Subplots

  • Happy Birthday, ClipperMax.  Today is ClipperMax's 13th birthday.  Sweet merciful crap, I have a teenage son!  At any rate, I'm out and about with birthday festivities, so you won't see me around here much today.  Don't trash the place.
  • The Clippers should start Steve Novak.  I'm pretty sure that they'll go with Thornton at the four, and Ricky at the three as they have the last couple of games, but they should absolutely start Novak.  With Przybilla starting, you can put Novak on him and let Jordan play Aldridge.  Or maybe you start Novak instead of Jordan.  The point is, Przybilla is about the perfect matchup for Novak.  He'll get some offensive boards against Steve, but he'd get those against Jordan as well.  And he's not a threat to do much anything else on offense.  So get Novak on the floor.  Play him 40 minutes tonight.
  • Will Aldridge disappear?  The Blazers Edgers who stop by from time to time have pointed out in the past that LaMarcus has trouble getting up for bad opponents.  Well, it doesn't get much worse than the Clippers today.  It will be interesting to see if the theory holds true. 
  • No Zach Randolph Reunion.  The first meeting between these two teams, Zach Randolph was heartily booed each time he touched the ball.  He responded with 38 points in the Clippers win, and most of the big buckets down the stretch.  Unfortunately, this will be the second consecutive game he's missing against his former team.
  • Blazers perimeter D.  Another tidbit we've gotten from Blazers Edgers is that the team's perimeter D is suspect.  They tend to leave three point shooters open.  Indeed, Novak made 5 threes in the first meeting, and I was just flabbergasted at the number of times they simply left the guy for no good reason.  Travis Outlaw has that habit as does Aldridge.  The way the Clippers have shot the three at times this season, it may be the team's one hope in this game.
  • Baron's still here.  It wasn't just a bad dream.  The trade deadline has come and gone, and Baron Davis is still a Clipper.  Is it Baron's nightmare?  MDsr's nightmare?  Clipper fans' nightmare?  The cracks are definitely starting to show.  MDsr benched him  at the end of the very half on Wednesday and then called him out in the halftime interview.  Then, the Tracy McGrady rumor came complete with 'sources in Baron's camp' saying things like 'It's best for everyone if Baron moves on."  Well, he didn't move on, and I'd like for him to make the best of this situation, thanks very much.  Can he outplay Steve Blake?  Steve friggin' Blake, for FSM's sake!
  • RLEC - RLEC stands for Raef Lafrentz' expiring contract, and surprisingly, it's still in Portland.  It was about the most coveted prize at the trade deadline, but it didn't end up going anywhere.  Last Tuesday I told someone I didn't think it was going to be traded because it was too valuable.  Not that it was too valuable as a money saver (because his remaining salary is insured this season) or for the cap space (they'll have some room under the cap when it expires), but that it was literally too much money.  At a cap number of $12.7M, it required the Blazers to take back a player in the $10M to $16M range.  But this team doesn't need a superstar - it might need some roll players, but you don't want to bring in a star and risk chemistry issues.  It's Brandon Roy's team - I don't see bringing in a player like Vince Carter whose used to being the man.  The Blazers supposedly looked closely at Caron Butler, Richard Jefferson and Gerald Wallace.  And I think it's pretty clear that they could have gotten more talent back now for RLEC, than they stand to get in the offseason with the cap space.  I just think they decided that they didn't necessarily need more talent now.  And I think it was the right decision.
  • Superstar for one game.  Let's go with Rudy Fernandez.  He's been pretty quiet against the Clippers in the first two meetings.  I think he may break out for a big game tonight.
  • Get the Blazers perspective at Blazers Edge.