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Clipper-Blazers Preview: Midweek Melee

Two of the Western Conference elite match-up in what could be a first round playoff preview.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

2014/2015 NBA Regular Season

March 4, 2015, 7:30 PM
ESPN, Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-15)
14-11 East 18-6
26-10 West 21-13
23-8 Home 25-6
17-13 Road 14-13
17-17 .500+ 16-15
23-4 .500- 23-4
7-3 L10 7-3
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Damian Lillard
J.J. Redick SG Wesley Matthews
Matt Barnes SF Nicolas Batum
Spencer Hawes PF LaMarcus Aldridge
DeAndre Jordan C Robin Lopez
Advanced Stats (2014-2015)
96.80 (11th of 30) Pace 96.57 (13th of 30)
110.0 (1st of 30) ORtg 104.9 (9th of 30)
103.5 (16th of 30) DRtg 99.9 (6th of 30)
Blake Griffin (out) elbow
Joel Freeland (out) shoulder
Matt Barnes (hopeful) hamstring

Jamal Crawford (day-to-day) calf

The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 2-0):

Date Venue Final
11/8/14 Los Angeles Clippers 106, Blazers 102 Recap Box
1/14/15 Portland Clippers 100, Blazers 94 Recap Box

The Big Picture: The Clippers have been playing well without Blake Griffin. Outside of the OKC game, the Clips have won or hung tough in every outing. According to reports, this could be the last game without the All-Star power forward. It seems fitting it would be another match-up with a tough Western Conference foe. The Clippers won two close games against Portland earlier this season, so you can expect the Blazers to be highly motivated tonight. A win here would not only be a nice way to close out the Griffin-less run, but would be a statement to the rest of the conference going forward.

The Antagonist: After starting the season almost as hot as Golden State, the Blazers hit a rough patch in January. This was due to LaMarcus Aldridge playing through injury and Damian Lillard hitting a cold streak. But the Blazers appear to have righted the ship in February. They are 7-3 in their last 10, with impressive wins over Houston, San Antonio and OKC. They are coming off a win over the Kings where Aldridge and Lillard combined for 57 points. The trade deadline acquisition of Aaron Afflalo has solidified the Portland bench, the Blazers biggest edge in this game is the match-up of back-ups.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers are still tops in the league in offense (110.0) but are also mired in the lower half in defense 103.5. The Blazers are top ten in both offense and defense. Somewhat surprisingly, Portland is ranked higher in defense (6th) than offense (9th). Both teams are equally middling in pace.
  • The standings. The Blazers are currently sitting in fourth place, one half a game in front of the Clippers. With a win tonight, the Clippers would overtake Portland for a momentary grasp on home court advantage in April. There is bound to be a lot of seesawing in the standings so it's good to relish the high points when they're there.
  • The schedule. The Clippers next game is nationally televised Sunday game against the bitter division rival Golden State Warriors. As if that wasn't big enough, there is much talk that Blake will be returning for that game. With so much on the line this weekend, the Clippers can't get caught looking ahead. The Blazers, on the other hand, have a game tomorrow against the Mavs. If the Clippers can get a lead early and carry that into the fourth, we may see Portland wave the white flag and rest their starters for Dallas.
  • Super shorthand? There is a chance the Clippers go into this game missing several key pieces. In addition to Griffin, Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford are both questionable going into this game. Barnes has stated that he hopes to be ready tonight, but even if he does play, he won't be 100 percent. Crawford is less likely to play after suffering a charley horse against the Wolves on Monday, but he still might suit up. These injuries mean more playing time for Austin Rivers and Jordan Hamilton.
  • Clips Nation Night. As many of you know, tonight many of the citizens of Clips Nation will be going to the game tonight and then playing a tournament on STAPLES floor afterwards. It might be too late to play but tickets are probably still available. You can find details here.
  • Sideshow Bob.
  • Connections. Former Clippers assistant and interim head coach Kim Hughes is now an assistant in Portland... Jamal Crawford played the 2011-2012 season in Portland... Former Clippers General Manager Neil Olshey now holds that role with the Blazers. Last summer, he acquired former Clippers Chris Kaman and Steve Blake to bolster the Portland bench.
  • Wikipedia entry:Trailblazer was a United States National Security Agency (NSA) program intended to develop a capability to analyze data carried on communications networks like the Internet. It was intended to track entities using communication methods such as cell phones and e-mail. NSA whistleblowers J. Kirk Wiebe, William Binney, Ed Loomis, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staffer Diane Roark complained to the Department of Defense's Inspector General (IG) about waste, fraud, and abuse in the program, and the fact that a successful operating prototype existed, but was ignored when the Trailblazer program was launched. The complaint was accepted by the IG and an investigation began that lasted until mid-2005 when the final results were issued. The results were largely hidden, as the report given to the public was heavily (90%) redacted, while the original report was heavily classified, thus restricting the ability of most people to see it.The people who filed the IG complaint were later raided by armed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. While the Government threatened to prosecute all who signed the IG report, it ultimately chose to pursue an NSA Senior Executive — Thomas Andrews Drake — who helped with the report internally to NSA and who had spoken with a reporter about the project. Drake was later charged under the Espionage Act of 1917. His defenders claimed this was retaliation. The charges against him were later dropped, and he agreed to plead guilty to having committed a misdemeanor under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, something that Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project (which helped represent him) called an "act of civil disobedience."