Los Angeles and Portland. The history between these teams is shallow but the water is red. In this, their second match-up of the young season, there probably isn’t much new that needs to be said: these teams had fun and entertaining match-ups in the past, but no real semblance of a rivalry emerged until the playoffs last season, when they faced off in the first round. Portland won that series 4-2, heftily assisted by season-ending injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the midst of game 4, and now t here’s a little more here than two entertaining teams.
The Trail Blazers are a spunky group by nature—they weren’t supposed to make any noise last season, but led by a defiant Damian Lillard, they exceeded expectations and made the playoffs. For them, there’s a chip on their shoulders all 82 games of the year, and they’re constantly out to prove themselves—especially against anointed Western Conference contenders like the Clippers. For the Clippers, Portland carries a special chance for redemption: an opportunity to prove that they are a superior team to their conqueror from last spring.
The Big Picture
The Clippers are the best defensive team in basketball. No big deal. They’re also 6-1, with their lone loss coming in a sluggish 85-83 defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. We don’t have to worry about that loss too much though, because the Clippers are still tied for first in the conference. It’s way too early to think about seeding but you’d rather be in first than anywhere else.
The team’s defense has been elite throughout their 7-game campaign, but the really encouraging sign is that the offense has finally gotten going. After averaging just (?) 100 points in their first five games, the Clippers have put up 114 and 116 in two impressive blowouts, and the offense has looked a lot better. If this team keeps dominating on both ends of the floor, look out NBA.
The Portland Trail Blazers aren’t in bad shape heading into tonight’s game either. At 5-3, the Blazers are about par for the course, currently tied for the 5-seed in the West. Two of the Blazers’ losses have come against the Warriors and Clippers, but they also dropped a bad one to the Phoenix Suns.
Damian Lillard has been as amazing as ever, averaging 33 points a game while shooting 50% from the field and almost 40% from deep. C.J. McCollum, who normally doesn’t do much against the Clippers, is coming off of a thirty-point performance in Phoenix and could look to keep that going.
Former Clipper Al-Farouq Aminu will miss tonight’s game, and Allen Crabbe will replace him in the starting lineup. While Crabbe is a much greater offensive threat, he makes Portland’s lineup a lot smaller. Now, Mo Harkless will have to guard Blake Griffin, which both makes life easier for Blake and for J.J. Redick, who typically struggles to defend the 6’8” Harkless.
Note: I apologize for the late and brief preview. One of our staff writers had a last-minute obligation force him away from this game, and I did the best I could to fill in with limited time and notice. We will resume our coverage in full swing with tonight’s game recap.