Trail Blazers vs Clippers Thursday, 11/08/12 AT 07:30PM

Trail Blazers Take On Clippers In First Of Three Home Games

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    After a rough fourth quarter and a tough shooting night in Dallas, I’m sure the Portland Trail Blazers hope that a return to the friendly confines of the Rose Garden will cure their shooting woes. After two days off, the Trail Blazers (2-2) face the Los Angeles Clippers (3-2) as the first of a three-game home stand. The game will tip-off at 7:30 PM and will be shown on TNT as well as broadcast on the radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

    •    Damian Lillard is going to face his biggest challenge to date as he is going against the league’s best point guard in Chris Paul. Paul has come out this year looking extremely spry and with that, the Clippers have pushed the pace. Last year the Clippers played at one of the slowest paces in the league and thus far this season, they are currently the league’s fastest team averaging 96.2 possessions per game. They are a much faster team and that has led to a very potent offensive attack, one that Portland must try to slow down as well as answer with their own playmakers. Thus far, the Clippers have relied on their transition game more than any other type of play in getting their offense. It currently accounts for 17.1% of all offensive plays per Synergy Sports Technology. Portland’s starters can keep up with the best of them, but when the Clippers go to their bench, it could be tough for Portland to match that production. What they will need to do is take the Clippers out of their comfort zone and get stops as well as execute in the half court, to limit the Clippers the transition opportunities they’ve preferred so far this year.  

    •    Portland must correct shooting woes to have a chance. Portland shot a terrible 36% in their last game and even worse from beyond the arc, going 22% from there. Going into Thursday’s game, the Trail Blazers currently rank 21st in the league in Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%), a stat that takes into account that three-pointers are worth more one more point than two-point shots. The Trail Blazers have an eFG% of 46.2%. Terry Stotts’ motion-based offense is intended to create open threes and the Trail Blazers rank 8th in the league in three pointers and are 13th in three-point percentage at 35.9%. For a team that relies on spot-up plays for 19.4%  of their offensive possessions, they only rank 22nd in the league in points per possession categories per Synergy Sports Technology. Oddly enough, the Trail Blazers have been extremely efficient in isolation situations which only account for 7% of their plays. They rank second in points per possession in that category mainly because of Damian Lillard, who has the sixth highest points per possession in isolation situations, according to Synergy.

    •    Ah yes, defense. Through four games, the Trail Blazers rank 27th in the league in opponents eFG%. They have been able to balance that out by being 14th in opponents Turnover percentage, forcing turnovers on 15% of their defensive possessions. Through four games, the Clippers have been the third most turnover prone team in the league with a turnover percentage of 16.9% and they have the third most total turnovers. Players with active hands like Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews should be in for plenty of steals, and if that happens, Portland will get higher quality looks. The Clippers come into the game with the league’s fourth best eFG% at 54.5 %.

    •    Portland must maximize their rebounding advantage. Portland has been much better on the boards over their first four games than their opponents on Thursday. The Trail Blazers are middle of the road in offensive and defensive rebound percentage, which calculates the amount of available rebounds a team grabs at 12th and 13th in the league respectively. The Clippers, however, rank in the bottom third in those categories, ranking 23rd in ORB% and 25th in DRB%. JJ Hickson has been instrumental in Portland’s rebounding efforts as he currently is tied for sixth in the league in rebounds per game, with 11.2 and is fourth in the league in total rebound percentage.

    •    Both teams have been great offensively in the pick-and-roll early in the season. The Clippers and Trail Blazers pick-and-roll ball handlers currently rank first and and third in the league in points per possession in such plays. Chris Paul and to a lesser extent, Jamal Crawford, lead the Clippers in that regard. Lillard has been Portland’s most used weapon in the pick-and-roll and is among the top-30 players in the category, but Wesley Matthews is currently ranked third in the league in such plays, averaging 1.2 points per possession even if he has been in those situations far less frequently than Lillard. According to Synergy, Portland and Los Angeles both run pick-and-roll plays with their ball handlers on 12.6% of their offensive possessions.

    •    Just as the Chris Paul-Damian Lillard match-up will be important, as will the battle between Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge and Griffin both rely on post-ups for both of their points but both vary in the secondary ways in which they score. Aldridge is used far more in the pick and roll with Lillard as a roll man, while Griffin gets his seconds in isolation situations and transition. It will be interesting to see the battle between two different, but talented all-star power forwards. Aldridge is currently 10th in the league in points per game, averaging 22 points per contest while Griffin is averaging 16.3 points

    •    Bench production. Although the Coach Stotts does not look to his bench for offense, it will be interesting how to Portland responds against the scoring punch from the Clippers. The Clippers bench ranks fourth in bench points, mainly because of Jamal Crawford, who is averaging over 21 points per game off the bench. However, it’s not just offense they have on their bench but guys that can do a little of everything. Eric Bledsoe is one of the league’s best perimeter defenders already as well as a pretty good playmaker and scorer.  The rest of their bench has a veteran feel to it with Caron Butler, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom. Stotts doesn’t look to his bench to add offense and the Trail Blazers starting five is first in the league in points per game, averaging 85.8 points per game. But, with the pace that the Clippers play at and the amount they’ve scored thus far in the early season, the Trail Blazers will have to find some kind of scoring punch outside their starting five or completely take the Clippers out of their element. Meyers Leonard produced well off the bench against Dallas by hitting the glass and getting easy buckets. Will Barton played high-energy minutes at Houston by making plays of the bounce and hitting the glass against Houston but didn’t see meaningful minutes against Dallas with the return of Sasha Pavlovic. Ronnie Price is still easing into his reserve point guard roll and him causing problems defensively could be helpful for Portland.

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