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The Portland Trail Blazers are set to take on the Los Angeles Clippers for the second time in two nights, and while they had the home crowd behind them the first time around, they’ll be traveling to Staples Center for round 2.
Matchup: Portland (22-21) @ Los Angeles Clippers (32-14)
Venue: Staples Center
Time: 6:30 PM PT
Date: Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013
Portland was able to take down the Clippers on Saturday in dramatic fashion, and if they want to do the same on Sunday, they’ll have to play just as well on the road.
Game Notes/ How They Match Up
After watching these two teams face off just 24 hours before Sunday’s contest, we have a pretty good idea of how they match up.
The Clippers have been a much better defensive group on the year, but when Portland gets out and plays an efficient game, their offense can handle just about anybody in the league.
The surprising thing that came from the most recent matchup is that the Clippers dominated the glass. Despite having Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on their side, they are only a middle-of-the-road rebounding team at best. On the season, Portland and Los Angles have been nearly identical, but L.A. had the edge in that department Saturday night.
If Portland can keep this game close, it’s going to come down to which group can make the hustle plays when they need them. Los Angeles has the ability to run Portland out of the gym, but in a tight game, a young Portland team can find ways of winning.
What to Watch: Portland
Rather than one area to watch out for, the Blazers have one player to keep an eye on come Sunday.
That player is Nicolas Batum.
Nicolas Batum is the most improved player on this roster by a long shot, and his season keeps getting better and better as the year goes on. He has two triple-doubles in his last three games—the first two of his career—and he is showing that he can impact a game from all over the floor.
As a distributor, Batum played the pick-and-roll game well against Los Angeles. He knew when to defer to his teammates and when to take over on his own, which is a veteran-like quality that he’s learned this season.
He also showed he can make hustle plays, as he was all over the court both flying through the air and diving on the ground.
Portland’s success doesn’t rely on Batum’s performance alone, but the better the forward plays, the easier life becomes for the Blazers.
What to Watch: Los Angeles
Los Angeles is the No. 2 team in the NBA when it comes to points in the paint, and they showed it in their one-point loss at the Rose Garden. They took full advantage of Portland’s weak interior defense, and they scored 56 points at the rim compared to the Blazers’ 32.
Nobody should be surprised by how well the Clippers scored in the pain Saturday night, but what was surprising was their performance from long range.
L.A. finished the game 7-of-16 from the three-point line, as they were taking smart shots and looking for open opportunities. A 43.8-percent showing was incredible compared to their season average of 35.1 percent, and if they can duplicate that number in back-to-back games, they’ll have the advantage.
LaMarcus Aldridge was the low scorer of all five Trail Blazers starters Saturday night. Blake Griffin was the high scorer for the Clippers.
That may not sound like the most intense battle on paper, but the matchup between the two All-Star forwards should be much more closely contested at Staples Center.
The NBA is a physical game. While all players have a mutual respect for the physicality at hand, nobody likes to get hit by the same person over and over again. This is why playoff series get so intense, and this is why round 2 between Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge will be that much better.
On the boards, Griffin has the clear advantage. Aldridge, however, can score in a multitude of ways—ways Griffin has yet to establish.
These two are different types of players at this stage in their careers, but both can get out and run, and both want to prove they are atop the ranks of game’s best power forwards.
Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Sasha Pavlovic
Los Angeles: DAY-TO-DAY—Chris Paul
Portland took down the Clips at home Saturday night, but Staples Center will be a much more difficult place to pull out a win.