The LA Clippers knew they had a tough task ahead of them entering the night. The 8-3 Portland Trail Blazers, coming off of a two-game win streak and ranking top-5 in Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating through their first 11 games, had been outscoring their opponents by roughly 10 points a game. Led by their starting-guard duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers have appeared poised to be a threat in the NBA’s Western Conference.
The Clippers, riding their own two-game streak and ranking top-10 in Offensive and Defensive Rating entering the night, appear to be a well-rounded team by a variety of crucial metrics. But 10 games into the season, some uncertainty has loomed overhead. The Clippers have been able to rely upon Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Lou Williams to score plentifully on a nightly basis. They’ve also been able to rely upon Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to give them every ounce of hustle they can muster from one game to the next. But ball movement, transition defense, rebounding, and turnovers have become problems that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Straight from tip-off tonight, the Clippers just weren’t entirely themselves. The absence of defensive stalwarts Avery Bradley and Luc Mbah a Moute certainly hurt them, against a Blazers team where early on-ball pressure and the ability to switch and fight through screens are defensive priorities. And though Harris was on the floor for 37 minutes and managed to post 15 points and 11 rebounds, he was playing through illness and it showed in his shot selection and overall decision-making. Gallinari, Williams, Harrell, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Harris combined for 93 of the Clippers’ 105 total points. The remainder of the roster who took to the floor tonight contributed a net negative, presenting some mismatch opportunities favoring the Blazers.
Lillard and McCollum led the way for the Blazers, combining for 48 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Blazers provided a balanced effort beyond their formidable guard duo, with all other players who entered the game, aside from Jake Layman, pitching in at least a pair of buckets apiece. The Blazers have now improved to 9-3 in the West, where every single game matters and is all but guaranteed to present playoff implications down the stretch. Conversely, the Clippers fall to 6-5, with time to regroup and a favorable home stretch ahead of them.
- Marcin Gortat did not play (DNP-CD) for the third straight game, his minutes supplanted by Montrezl Harrell and Boban Marjanovic. Harrell continues to be a reliable force for the Clippers, but Boban did not provide anything close to his usual per-minute production in tonight’s matchup. Gortat may see some minutes in the games to come, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the questionable center situation going forward.
- The Clippers, who entered the night ranking 9th in the NBA in Rebounding Percentage, were absolutely dominated by the Blazers on the glass. The Blazers out-rebounded the Clippers 53-41, including 14 offensive boards. Rebounding was a major factor in the Blazers’ victory tonight.
- The Clippers ranked 1st in Free Throws Attempted per game (29.5) entering tonight’s matchup, but didn’t get their first shots at the line until the 8:53 mark during the 2nd quarter. They ultimately ended up getting to the line 20 times tonight, converting only 15 of those shots. Conversely, the Blazers created foul problems early for the Clippers, getting to the line 28 times tonight and converting all but 2 shots.
The LA Clippers host the Milwaukee Bucks at Staples Center on Saturday November 10th at 12:30pm.
Be sure to check out the Blazers perspective of tonight’s matchup over at Blazer’s Edge.