After two close losses that came down to the last few seconds, the Clippers hope to finally crack the win column against the Trail Blazers and their new head coach, (and Clippers alum) Chauncey Billups.
Like the past two games, however, Paul George and his supporting cast will have to deal with a talented backcourt with seemingly unlimited scoring potential. First, it was Stephen Curry dropping 45 points in the season opener. Then, it was Ja Morant revitalizing the young Grizzlies throughout important stretches in the Clippers’ most recent loss.
Now, it’s CJ McCollum (who’s averaging more than 30 points so far) and Damian Lillard, whose history with Paul George is well-publicized, dating back to George’s time in Oklahoma City. What’s scariest about this pair of guards is that the roles have, so far, been reversed: Lillard’s scoring averages have been second fiddle to McCollum’s offensive leadership. However, that also means Lillard may be looking to put on a big performance to validate his spot on the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team after two lackluster offensive showings.
When: Monday, October 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch/listen: NBA TV & Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 Radio
Opposing perspective: Blazer’s Edge
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Ben McLemore, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic
Clippers: Keon Johnson — QUESTIONABLE; Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston — OUT
Trail Blazers: Norman Powell, Tony Snell — OUT
The Clippers have demonstrated some competency on the court to start the season, similar to what got them past the Utah Jazz in the playoffs without Kawhi Leonard. In both losses, the team has shown a familiar poise and perseverance when the going gets tough, fueled by George. However, the Clippers have dropped both of those games due to lapses in defensive focus and inconsistency on the offensive end. If they want to soundly defeat the Blazers, they will need to keep Lillard and McCollum under control while also making sure they hit their open shots.
With Norman Powell out for the Blazers, it’s possible the Clippers’ wing advantage could translate into real results. Keep a close eye on both Marcus Morris Sr. and Eric Bledsoe this upcoming game — Morris is due for a hot shooting night after hitting just 3-of-11 attempts from outside (remember he shot over 47 percent from three last year).
On the other hand, Bledsoe has been exceeding expectations on the offensive end, averaging 17 points, while living up to his reputation defensively. This game will be an opportunity for Bledsoe to show he can consistently maintain his offensive production — with good efficiency — and remain the Clippers’ defensive anchor, at least until Kawhi returns.
It’s important to remember this is just the third game of the season, and Ty Lue’s coaching style guarantees that appropriate adjustments will be made to improve this team’s chances. However, a three-game losing streak to start the seasoning will be disheartening, and it’s all up to the Clippers to prove they can keep pace with their Western Conference opponents.