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Clippers-Trail Blazers: Deja vu

Didn't these guys just play each other? Yes, they did, last night in Portland in a game the Blazers won 101-100, scoring the final 10 points of the game. The Clippers need to avenge that loss and halt their four game losing streak right now.

USA TODAY Sports Images
2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

January 27th, 2012, 6:30 PM
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Eric Bledsoe PG Damian Lillard
Willie Green SG Wesley Matthews
Caron Butler SF Nicolas Batum
Blake Griffin PF LaMarcus Aldridge
DeAndre Jordan C J.J. Hickson
Advanced Stats through Jan. 25
91.9 (11th of 30) Pace 91.2 (21st of 30)
109.8 (4th of 30) ORtg 104.6 (15th of 30)
101.4 (5th of 30) DRtg 106.5 (20th of 30)
Chris Paul (knee) DTD
Elliot Williams (Achilles surgery) out
Chauncey Billups (Achilles surgery) out
Sasha Pavlovic (plantar fasciitis) doubtful
Trey Thompkins (knee) out

The Back Story:

  • November 8, 2012 in Portland | Clippers 103, Blazers 90 | Recap | Box Score
  • January 26, 2012 in Portland | Blazers 101, Clippers 100 | Recap | Box Score

The Big Picture:

For the second time this season, the Clippers have lost four games in a row. The first time, they ended the losing streak and began a 17 game winning streak instead. Don't count on that this time, though they certainly do have winnable games coming up if they can get themselves right. Since the combination of Chris Paul's absence due to injury and the return of Grant Hill to the lineup, the team has seemed out of sorts with both the first and second unit. With Eric Bledsoe replacing Paul on the first unit, the team lacks primary scoring options, having essentially just Blake Griffin and the penetration of Bledsoe to rely on when they're not forcing turnovers and running. Meanwhile, without Bledsoe to push the tempo and pressure the ball for the second unit, that secret weapon that had been so impressive all season have been defused. It's never easy losing your best player, and the Clippers should be fine when Paul is back in the lineup -- but they're losing touch with the top of the conference (now three games back of the Spurs) and now have to be looking behind them at the Grizzlies, who are only a game back in the loss column. Facing the Blazers on the second night of a back to back with the game in L.A. I really expect the Clippers to run away with this game, with or without CP3.

The Antagonist:

The Blazers have now won two straight after losing six straight. Nicolas Batum was monstrously good for them last night, posting a triple double that included a career high 12 assists. The Blazers also made 11 of 25 three pointers in last night's game. They probably can't count on either of those things happening again tonight, and will need LaMarcus Aldridge to have a better game. He was just 5-14, for 12 points and six rebounds last night. They're not likely to win on the road without a better game from their best player.

The Subplots

  • Preview review. Since we just played these guys, I don't have a lot more to say about them. You can go check out yesterday's preview if you like -- it still applies. I'll make a couple of updates here.
  • Home and home back to back. It doesn't happen much, but every so often the NBA schedules a home and home back to back. If you have to have back to backs, I kind of like this type, because at least neither has a big advantage. Both teams had the same game and the same travel the night before. The Clippers should have the advantage in this one, not just because they are at home. They will be motivated to avenge the loss in Portland, and meanwhile the Blazers rely on their starters much more heavily than the Clippers do, so the back to back should impact them more. Batum (41), Aldridge (40), Matthews (39) and Lillard (37) all played huge minutes last night for Portland, while only Griffin (38) was in that range for the Clippers.
  • Home/road. The Blazers are 15-8 in the Rose Garden this season. But that leaves them just 7-13 on the road. That's one of the biggest home/road discrepancies in the league. The Clippers can't be complacent, but this is not nearly as good a team without their crowd behind them.
  • Three point shooting. Well, I pointed out yesterday that the Blazers take the fourth most threes in the league, but are the fifth worst when it comes to three point percentage. They lived up to their resume in taking 25 last night (they take 24 on average) -- but instead of making their usual 8 or 9 (.336 on the season) they made 11 (.440) besting their season average by 10 percentage points. It was the eighth time this season a Clippers opponent has made 11 or more threes while making over 40%, and the Clippers have lost all eight of those games.
  • Griffin-Jordan high-low lob. It's a little wrong to complain when Griffin tied his career high with 10 assists last night, but the way Portland was defending the pick and roll, he could have had several more to his buddy DeAndre Jordan. When Griffin catches on the pick and roll, DeAndre's man is frequently forced to rotate to Griffin to cut off his lane to the basket. There is an instant there where DJ has free access to the rim as the defense is rotating, and if Griffin throws the lob it's almost an automatic two points. Blake three that pass once last night -- but it was available at last three other times that I noticed. It's not an easy pass by any means, and few bigs in the league can throw. Pau Gasol to Andrew Bynum for the Lakers last season was probably the best combination for it. But it's often there, and Griffin has shown he can throw it. He needs to trust himself more an make that pass. It's there -- a lot -- especially against this team.
  • Connections. I missed a connection yesterday (because I didn't know he was there until I saw him on the Blazers bench last night): former Clippers assistant coach and interim head coach between Mike Dunleavy and Vinny Del Negro, Kim Hughes is now an assistant in Portland. The rest of these are repeats, but in case you are interested, Jamal Crawford played in Portland last season. Ronny Turiaf and Nicolas Batum were teammates on Team France in the London Olympics (and at other times as well). Clippers assistant coach Bob Ociepka, often credited with helping improve the team's defense, was an assistant in Portland for two seasons. Blazers general manager Neil Olshey left a similar post for the Clippers to take the job in Portland.
  • Get the Blazers perspective at Blazer'sEdge.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Used to be a Sweet Boy -- Morrissey

    Used to be a sweet boy
    Holding so tightly
    To Daddy's hand
    But that was all
    In some distant land
    Blazer and tie
    And a big bright healthy smile
    Used to make all
    Of our trials worthwhile

    Let's not pretend that Morrissey's solo work is as good as The Smiths -- it's not. Johnny Marr's guitar was as much a part of what made that band great as Morrissey's lyrics and vocals. But Morrissey continued to create his own brand of bleak, wry songs as a solo artist, and if you liked The Smiths you probably liked his solo stuff too.