Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:30 PM PT
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups:
Blazers: Damian Lillard – CJ McCollum – Moe Harkless – Al-Farouq Aminu – Jusuf Nurkic
Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Pat Beverley – Landry Shamet – Danilo Gallinari – Ivica Zubac
Blazers: Evan Turner Questionable (Knee), Rodney Hood Questionable (Hip)
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute Out (Knee)
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have won five games in a row, eight of their last ten, and look as good as they have all season. Their new starting lineup is playing well on both ends, juiced by Gallinari on offense and Beverley and Zubac on defense. Lou Williams continues his reign of terror as the best bench player in the NBA, and the Clippers as a whole are playing very unselfish, smart basketball. They look fantastic, and while they’re playing on the second night of a back to back, many of their key players were able to rest down the stretch against the Celtics, as the Clips won in a blowout.
The Blazers are, for what seems like the millionth year in a row, a very good but not great team. They’re going to win somewhere from 47 to 50 games, have one All-NBA player in Damian Lillard, and are not respected by most pundits as a real threat in the postseason. Part of the issue is that while Jusuf Nurkic has taken a step forward this season, and CJ McCollum is always a threat to get hot, Lillard has no true All-Star level help. And, once again, Neil Olshey failed to make much a substantial move at the deadline, acquiring mediocre swingman Rodney Hood for a couple second round picks, and adding defensive sieve Enes Kanter via buyout. Lillard is terrifying, but the rest of the Blazers squad is far, far less scary.
- Good matchup for the Clippers: The Clippers’ starting lineup has been great recently, and matches very well against the Blazers’ group. Pat will assuredly start on Dame, Shai’s length should bother CJ McCollum, Landry Shamet can be hidden on Moe Harkless, and Ivica Zubac is a large body who can disrupt Nurkic. On offense, while Aminu and Harkless are decent counters for Gallo, the Blazers have absolutely no guard defender for Lou Williams, and none of their big men are great counters for Trez either. The Blazers are good, and have a real rest advantage, but this is a game the Clippers can win.
- Can Shai keep torching the Blazers: Shai has averaged 18.3 points per game against the Blazers this season through three games, by far his highest points average against any opponents. Even more impressively, he’s scoring at that level while shooting 55.6% from the field and 40% from three. Dame and CJ aren’t very good defenders, and they’re also small, allowing Shai to easily rise up and shoot his midrange jumpers. Shai’s been playing with a lot of confidence lately, and hopefully that translates again tonight.
- Big game for standings: The Clippers currently sit in the 6th spot in the Western Conference, while the Blazers are in 5th. They’re two games and three losses behind the Blazers right now, but a win would close the gap to a single game, and also tie the season series 2-2. It’s still unlikely that the Clippers catch the Blazers, but with the way they’re playing right now, anything is possible.
Check out Blazer’s Edge for the Blazers perspective, and check back in later for the game thread!