The Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trailblazers are set to face off in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. This 4/5 seed matchup on its surface looks to be both the most competitive and most entertaining of the Western Quarterfinals. Our staff give their thoughts and picks on who will be victorious:
Larson Ishii: Clippers in 5. Earlier this month I took the somewhat controversial opinion I'd rather play Portland than Memphis in the first round — I guess this is karma coming back to bite me. I stand by my previous points and am just not as afraid of the Blazers as everyone else is. To me the biggest difference is in defense: The Clippers are 4th in defensive rating in the league while the Blazers are 20th. I think the Clippers continue to bottle up the Blazers backcourt for most of the series; Dame and CJ go off and win game 3 at home.
Lucas Hann: Clippers in 5. I like the Blazers and I think they're the best team in the bottom half of the West with Memphis crippled, but I also don't think they'll give the Clippers too much trouble. The Clippers' guards are just as good as Portland's, and having Blake Griffin back will make a difference on the defensive glass. Portland will get hot one game and force a split at home, but the Clippers will close it out at Staples in game 5.
Niels Pineda: Clips in 6. Even though this was my worst case first round opponent, I think Damian and CJ can only take Portland so far. The Blazers offensive rebounding abilities will definitely be frustrating to watch as a Clipper fan, but I just think the Clippers are the better, deeper team. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if a majority of the games are down to the line.
Danielle Greenberg: Clippers in 7. I think the Clips make it to round 2, but recent history suggests it will take 7 games. In the "Lob City Era," all three playoff series wins have gone to 7 games. Not to mention with Blake shedding the rust, he likely won't be at full strength early in the series.
rorobrowns: Clippers in 6. To help project Clipper games, I calculate point differentials based on shooting percentages and a variety of other factors. Normally for a game against Portland, I would predict the Clippers win by 8. Given the playoffs and home court, that point differential most commonly associates with a 6 game series.
Robert Flom: Clips in 5. The Moda Center is a tough place to win at, and Portland has some explosive scorers, so i can see them winning a game (maybe two) at home. The issue is that their best player is the same position as the Clippers' best player... except not as good. The Blazers have the stronger bench, but reserves matter less in the postseason, and the Clipper have the advantage in high-end talent. While it may be a fun series, I can't see the Clippers losing 4 games.
Jonathan Hu: Clippers in 6. Portland has a great backcourt of shooters, and that plus hacking can steal a game or two. While the depth of the Clippers front line should overwhelm the Blazers, I see the Clips undefeated at home, but only sluggish on the road going 1-2.
Steve Perrin: Clippers in 5. The talent divide is massive between these two teams — i mean, Al Farouq Aminu may be the Blazers' third best player, and we know all too much about AFA's limitations. I'll allow that Damian Lillard and/or some of Portland's other shooters could get white hot and steal a game, but the Clippers just have too much for the Blazers to handle, and it doesn't hurt that Dad Hooper has dominated Baby Dame since he was born ... umm ... came into the league.
socal_clip: Clippers in 5. State Farm may have had Damian rapping about "Droppin' Dimes," but he'll be matched up with his father, the Point God. Also the Clippers bench has been playing in a great rhythm lately; Jamal, Cole, Green, Prigs, Wes, and Austin can take whatever Portland throws at them from the second unit. Plus, Blake is back!
Kenneth Armstrong: Clippers in 4. Whenever Jamal Crawford gets a chance to suit up against his former team in Portland, he is guaranteed to put on a show. Admittedly as sweep may seem far-fetched, but the extra amounts of rest that role players like Austin Rivers and Wes Johnson have been able to get should help dispatch the Blazers quickly. The Clippers have persevered and found ways to win all season, so the confidence should be flowing.
Ray Samora: Clippers in 6. The Clips will win this series easy... as easy as a 6 game series can be. Without much to play for the last few weeks of the season, they may be a rusty and drop the first game, bringing on the tired "Same Ol' Clippers" arguments. But then they'll blow out the Blazers in game 2, split 3&4 in Portland, and then knock them out with back-to-back wins in 5 and 6.
Adithya: Clippers in 4. BRING OUT THE BROOMS! Against by far the easiest playoff opponent they've ever had in the CP3 era, I expect the Clippers to come out and take care of business. The Blazers don't pose any huge matchup challenges, and their strengths play to LA's advantage. They have no answer for Blake Griffin, and even if they did, they can't deal with Paul or DeAndre Jordan either. Expect Austin Rivers or Jeff Green to catch fire in Game 4 and stick a thorn into the Rose Garden's ballooning hopes.
Thomas Wood: Clippers in 5. The Blazers have arrived early, which is fun, but won't save them from being dispatched without delay. This series reminds me of the upstart Vinny Del Negro led Clippers that ran into the veteran San Antonio Spurs buzz saw. This time around, it's the Clippers who come in grizzled and playoff tested, and their experience wins out.
Shaphan Debnath: Clippers in 6. I want to say Clippers in 5, but I'm too superstitious. The Blazers backcourt is fantastic and will likely have their moments throughout the series, despite Paul's track record defending Lillard. I expect Dame and CJ to get the Blazers a game, and wouldn't be surprised for Portland's role players to overachieve at home behind a killer crowd and take another. Let's hope Blake Griffin works out all the kinds this series.
Taylor Smith: Clippers in 6. Portland is a fairly scary bunch. They're extremely well coached and the likes of Lillard and McCollum can each get hot. The Blazers are also one of the league's best rebounding teams, particularly on the offensive end where they are 4th best in the NBA. Even so, Portland just doesn't have the firepower to keep up with Clips in a long series. This won't be an easy series by any means, especially with the Moda Center being a tough environment, but he Clippers get through based largely on their overall talent advantage.
Caden Kinard: Clippers in 6. Six games, but a close six games. LA's defense has changed for only two point guards this year — Steph Curry and Damian lillard. Instead of having the big sit back in pick-and-rolls, he hedges hard, nearly doubling the ball handler, creating 4-on-3 chances for the Blazers. Because of that Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee have dominated the Clippers on the glass averaging NINE offensive rebounds a game between the two, a gigantic problem for the Clippers with the increased amount of pick and roll sets in a slowed down playoff series. However, Paul eats Lillard's lunch and hits him with a sack of potatoes head-to-head, which will ultimately be the x-factor deciding the series.
Matt Levin. Clippers in 6. I would say 7, but you can never count out the likelihood that C.J. McCollum will be accidentally left off the active roster.
boltsfan21: Blazers in 7. Someone has to do the reverse jinx, right?
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