Trail Blazers vs Warriors Wednesday, 04/17/13 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Face Clippers In First Of Home-And-Home

01/26/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Trail Blazers (21-21) take on the Los Angeles Clippers (32-12) tonight for the second time this season. The game will tip off at 7PM and will be shown on KGW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. This is the first game of a home-and-home series, as the Trail Blazers will be flying to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Sunday night.

        •    The previous match-up between these two teams was the Trail Blazers' fifth game of the season. The Clippers, behind a dominant first half from Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan jumped out to a 21-point halftime lead. Nicolas Batum (23 points, nine rebounds, five assists) led the Trail Blazers on a third quarter run, which was a trademark of the early season, and the Trail Blazers eventually made it a game. However, Jamal Crawford closed the game out off the dribble after Batum shut down Chris Paul in the second half. The biggest difference tonight is of course that the Clippers are without Paul, who is nursing a bruised right knee. Without Paul, the Clippers are still going to be a tough match-up because of their depth. Eric Bledsoe is a dynamic athlete at the point guard position but can lose control at times on the offensive end. The challenge this time around for the Trail Blazers will be different but it will still be tough against a team that turns up the defensive pressure and has a host of talented offensive players.
        
    •    The Trail Blazers finally got their offensive groove going against Indiana. The Pacers are a disciplined offensive team and the Clippers embrace pressure, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. The Clippers are the NBA's fifth best defense and tonight's game will be a stark contrast from the Pacers game. Portland was able to get good looks against the Pacers because they were setting better screens on offense. Screens are an important part of Portland's movement-based offense because it helps Portland's playmakers get separation. That will be a key for the Trail Blazers tonight and they cannot afford to be lazy with that task. Nobody forces more turnovers in the NBA than the Clippers. Damian Lillard and Portland's other ball handlers have to be good with the ball but they cannot be timid. Lillard did a fantastic job against the Pacers, scoring 20 points by getting to the rim and totaling eight assists with no turnovers. Lillard's offense will be what Portland needs to get started and he will have one of the league's better perimeter defenders in Bledsoe hounding him all night.
        
    •    Without Paul in the mix, denying us of a Lillard-Paul Round II, the highlighted match-up is that between the two All-Star big men, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin. Griffin had picked it up in Paul's absence but had a down night against the Suns on Thursday. Aldridge was on fire against the Pacers, pulling out every move in his offensive arsenal on his way to 27 points. The Clippers offense has stalled a lot at times without Paul and they often are left with no recourse but to throw the ball to Griffin in the post. Griffin, although unorthodox, is a very good post scorer but having Aldridge on him will be as good of a plan as any.  Aldridge will be able to get his, but Portland can't afford a slow start against the Clippers' opportunistic defense. Size wise, Aldridge is closer to Jordan but Jordan is not the same offensive post player he was earlier in the season when he was eight of 10 from the field. His offense hasn't been the same since so priority number one should be containing Griffin and throwing Aldridge, one of the league's best post defenders, on him. However, JJ Hickson, Meyers Leonard, Jared Jeffries or whichever big man Stotts throws on Jordan has to be aware of his ability to come weak side for put-back jams. The Clippers are a top-10 offensive rebounding team.

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