The Back Story:
Portland 103 - Clippers 99 - Recap Box Score
The Big Picture:
The Clippers get a chance to avenge last week's loss in Portland. That was one of the games I missed while vacationing with the family, so I can't really speak to it. I do know that the Clippers would be riding a three game winning streak had they not dropped that game to the short-handed Blazers. Baron Davis was 2 for 15 in that one, and was 0 for his final 11 after the first quarter. Had Baron shot well (over even anything above abysmal) the Clippers likely would have won in Portland. They can ill-afford to drop this one - they've managed to remain within 4 games of .500 into the new year, but a home game against an opponent wracked by injuries is not one you can let slip away. The January schedule is much more difficult than November or December. It features nine road games versus only six home games, and includes two games each against the Lakers and Cavs, and road games in Denver and Boston, who'll both be looking for revenge. If the Clippers want to keep their hopes alive through the end of the month, they must win the winnable games. This is one of them. [Note by Steve Perrin, 01/04/10 10:55 AM PST ] According to Lisa Dillman, Al Thornton skipped yesterday's practice with a stomach virus and is listed as questionable for tonight. With Al ailing, I axpect Rasual Butler will get the start, and Mardy Collins may get more minutes than usual.
The Trailblazers have suffered more injuries than any team in recent memory. Yes, even more than the 07-08 Clippers - at least to this point. They have now received two injury exceptions from the league to go over the 15 man maximum - but even with 17 players under contract, they can barely suit the minimum eight. The situation is way beyond absurd - when was the last time an NBA player got pneumonia? Well, if it was going to happen, it was going to happen to the 09-10 Blazers, who lost Steve Blake to pneumonia this week. With Blake out, and LaMarcus Aldridge likely to wait another day to test his ankle, Portland will once again play with Brandon Roy and a bunch of guys you've never heard of. And although it seems like the Blazers should be very beatable right now, they just keep winning. They have won 8 of their last 10, despite all of their injury problems. It helps to have Roy around, but you have to give a lot of credit to coach Nat McMillan who has his team executing, no matter who is on the floor. With Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla and Aldridge out, the Blazers are particularly thin in the front court. But can the Clippers take advantage?
- Rebounding. The Blazers are missing their three tallest players, who not coincidentally also happen to be their three best rebounders (Oden, Przybilla and Aldridge). Yet somehow, they managed to outrebound the Clippers 40-33 last Wednesday. Their 12-7 advantage on the offensive boards was the biggest difference in a game in which both teams shot about the same (Clippers 49.3%, Blazers 50.6%). Rebounding is about effort. The Clippers were outworked in the first game.
- Brandon Roy. Among NBA shooting guards, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant are the pinnacle. They are not only the best in the game right now, but among the best to ever play the position. They also happen to be the only shooting guards in the league better than Brandon Roy. The guy is an elite player at this point.
- Kaman. Last Wednesday Kaman had 25 points against the Blazers on 12 for 19 shooting - and citizen LJ Hann complained that he should have had 40 in his recap. That may be asking a lot, but the simple fact is that the Blazers are severely shorthanded in the frontcourt, and they don't have anyone who can handle Kaman. Certainly not if he continues playing the way he has been. Kaman has scored 20 or more in 9 of his last 10 games, but he's never scored 30 in his career. Maybe this will be the night.
The Blazers you don't know. Jeff Pendergraph went to ASU and was drafted by Sacramento with the first pick in the second round. The Blazers traded Sergio Rodriguez and Jon Brockman and cash to get him, so you know Kevin Pritchard liked the guy (I'm sure Nate liked his 14 rebounds against the Clippers). Dante Cunningham went to Villanova and was the 33rd pick in the draft. How did Portland get the 33rd pick in the draft? From the Clippers of course. The Clippers gave them their 2009 second rounder for Mike Taylor on draft day in 2008. We may also see some Shavlik Randolph tonight. Randolph was originally drafted by the Sixers out of Duke, but messed up his knee in Philly and has been struggling to stick in the league since.
- Going small. The Blazers fout best players right now are Roy, Andre Miller, Martell Webster and Jerryd Bayless. As such, you can expect to see Roy playing the small forward with Miller and Bayless at the guards for some of this game. The Clippers' perimeter defense against that group will be key.
- Eric Gordon. Gordon has been slumping some for the Clippers, but he did have a good game against the Blazers last Wednesday, scoring 24 points on 11 shots. It would be great to see him go off against the Blazers tonight.
Blue Blazer Irregular, Pinky Carruthers. Sorry, John, everybody "need see Buckaroo". Later.
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