Roughly ten days ago, these two teams met up in Oregon, and battled it out in a fierce affair that saw the Portland Trail Blazers come away with the win simply because the Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t keep the likes of Ed Davis off of the offensive glass. It was an embarrassing loss for the Clippers because the effort was lacking in a monumental way. That isn’t to take anything away from the Blazers. They earned that win completely. Davis was a menace, Damian Lillard hit several huge buckets down the stretch, and Portland just outclassed the Clippers in almost every sense of the word despite the best efforts Blake Griffin (21-7-7). In the end, the outclassing by Portland of Los Angeles is the only thing that should be on the mind of the Clippers going into this rematch.
Speaking of Lillard, he’s currently the sixth leading scoring in the league at this second, averaging 25.4 points per game on 42.0 percent from the field and 36.0 percent from deep. He’s also chipping in with 7.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds. The fourth-year guard out of Weber State has been a hit ever since he stepped foot into the league and won the Rookie of the Year trophy. Despite his seemingly never-ending range and ability to get to the rim almost at will, the most impressive part about Lillard’s game is that he has yet to actually miss a single contest. He’s suited up and started in all 263 games since his arrival. That, in and of itself, is pretty darn special. Especially since he came right in and started averaging 38.6 minutes a night back in his rookie campaign, and is averaging 36.8 minutes per game for his career. Lillard is a model of consistency in a sport that lacks many that come close to achieving it.
Lillard’s backcourt brethren is C.J. McCollum. He’s in his third year out of Lehigh, but the potential he flashed in college of being a dangerous all-purpose scorer has become wildly evident this season. McCollum is averaging 20.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists on 45.9 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from deep. McCollum and Lillard have shaped themselves into one of the most dangerous duos in the entire league. Their uncanny ability to hit almost any shot they heave up at the rim is nearly second to none, and their innate skills give them a leg up on almost every single backcourt they run into. If the Clippers want to achieve success in this game, containing these two is a huge step in the right direction. You won’t be able to stop them, but limiting them can be done.
In their prior meeting, the Clippers got killed on the offensive glass by Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee. The duo helped Portland amass 25 second chance points and 17 offensive rebounds, marks that clearly hurt the Clippers’ chances that night. To stop that from happening again, Los Angeles must keep both men off of the glass and do so by actually getting a body into them. Giving them free runs at the rim isn’t any logical way of doing things. They did that last time and it did not work. Get a body into them, force them to feel you, and go about your business. No half-measures in this game. Also, don’t sleep on Noah Vonleh and Al-Farouq Aminu getting involved in the offensive rebound action. Box everyone out. It’s a team concept, not just an individual one.
As always, the Clippers are led on offense by the terrifying trio of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and J.J. Redick. In yesterday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the triumvirate combined for 64 points on just 40 shots. That kind of production is something the team generally can come to expect on most nights. Griffin is averaging nearly 25-9-5 this season on 54.7 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Paul is averaging 17-4-8 on 46.5 percent, and Redick is averaging 13.9 points on 48/46/84 shooting. They’re all playing well for the most part. However, there haven’t been too many games where all three have played fantastic offensively. The last game was one such instance. The team will need all three to deliver that type of performance yet again.
As for the rest of the starters, DeAndre Jordan has had his ups and downs throughout the year, but don’t overlook his 10.6 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks just yet. While he still is a wreck offensively outside of dunks, he impacts most plays by just being on the floor. The worrisome part might be defensively, where the team is struggling even with him on the court. He doesn’t seem as engaged as he has been in the past so he’ll need to pick it up. For now, it seems like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is going to be the starter yet again. Things are fluid and change, but for now we’ll go with him. He was decent in his first start of the season, netting 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 steal on 2-of-6 shooting. He did nail 2 corner threes, which is a huge help, but he passed on numerous other open ones. If he’s open, he has to take them. Simple as that.
In the prior meeting, the Clippers were without Paul Pierce. He’s now coming off a decent offensive game, but there’s no word on if he’ll play in this one. Lance Stephenson has turned in two great performances in a row as he’s now become a burst of energy off the bench that helps keep the team motivated and focused when he’s on the floor. He might be the heartbeat right now, as odd as that sounds. Josh Smith is still a quality player off the bench, and seems to have learned his limitations a little bit more. On top of that, Austin Rivers is still a quality bench guard and doing great work defensively, as well as finishing in the lane. Jamal Crawford had a subpar last game, but he did light the Blazers up for 20 points on 5-of-8 from deep the last time these two squads played. There’s no telling what the bench does in this game, but they’ll have to play well for the team to have a shot on a back-to-back.
The team shouldn’t go into this game overlooking the task in front of them. At a certain point, the Clippers have to play as if they know their season depends on it. Starting with that game against the Denver Nuggets back on November 24, the Clippers are in a stretch of games that feature average to below-average squads. This is the time to take advantage. So far, they’re 3-1 with a tough loss to the Utah Jazz. As long as they stay focused on the task at hand, play hard, box out, and try to have some fun, this team could start turning it around. 9-8 is nothing to write home about, but it could be worse. Let’s hope they make it better – especially with a relatively soft schedule in front of them.
|2015/2016 NBA Regular Season|
|November 30, 2015 | 7:30 PM (PDT)|
|STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, California)|
|Prime Ticket, CSNNWHD, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM|
|Win-Loss Breakdown (2015-2016 Regular Season)|
|Damian Lillard||PG||Chris Paul|
|C.J. McCollum||SG||J.J. Redick|
|Al-Farouq Aminu||SF||Luc Richard Mbah a Moute|
|Noah Vonleh||PF||Blake Griffin|
|Mason Plumlee||C||DeAndre Jordan|
|Advanced Stats (2015-2016 Regular Season)|
|97.78 (21st of 30)||Pace||99.15 (15th of 30)|
|102.7 (9th of 30)||ORtg||105.0 (4th of 30)|
|102.4 (19th of 30)||DRtg||102.8 (20th of 30)|