The Portland Trail Blazers are coming back home following a 1-2 road trip that saw them put together one brilliant second-half comeback while collapsing in the fourth quarters of the other two contests.
Matchup: Portland (2-2) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (3-2)
Venue: Rose Garden Arena
Time: 7:30 PM PT
Date: Nov. 8, 2012
The Blazers may have home-court advantage on their side in this one, but the Los Angeles Clippers aren’t going to make things easy in the team’s first nationally televised game of the season.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
We all know that the Trail Blazers are running a much faster pace this season than in years past, but the Los Angeles Clippers are running the fastest pace in all of basketball. While the Blazers have become known for their “disorganized chaos,” L.A. has made their mark scoring the fifth-most points per game this year. They’re averaging 104.3 points per contest, which is nearly six points more per contest than Portland.
Both teams also struggle on defense. The Clippers are allowing 102.3 points per game, which is only good enough for 25th in the NBA. The Blazers are right behind them at 26th, as they give up 102.8.
This game should feature a lot of points, as we should see both teams running up and down the court trading buckets throughout the contest.
What to Watch: Portland
If the Blazers can stay close in this one early, it’s going to come down to late-game execution. The team fell apart in the fourth quarters against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks, which made their double-digit defeats look far worse than they actually were.
Part of finding that production late in the game is getting solid contributions off the bench throughout the contest. If the reserves are playing well early, there’s no fear of falling behind by an irreconcilable deficit. Being able to rest your starters is a luxury in this league, and if they have energy at the end of the game, you’re going to be in good shape.
Unfortuantely for Portland, the bench has been awful this season. The starters are playing way too many minutes as a result of incompetent play, and if that trend continues on Thursday, it’s going to be a long game.
What to Watch: Los Angeles
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are always dangerous when on the court for the Clippers, but the player whom the Portland needs to stop is former Trail Blazers Jamal Crawford.
Crawford signed with the Clippers this past offseason after one year in Rip City, and he has gone on to become a scoring machine.
The 6’5” guard is averaging 24 points per game this season, and he is a top-5 scorer in the NBA at this point in the 2012-13 campaign.
The stars area going to get their stats night in and night out, but if Portland can shut down their sixth man, who is averaging more points than the entire Blazers bench this season, they’ll take away a big part of L.A.’s offense come Thursday night.
There are two major matchups to keep your eye on during this game, and the first is Chris Paul versus Damian Lillard.
NBA fans across the country have heard about Damian Lillard’s historic start, but very few have seen what he can do on the live stage. As great as he’s been up to this point, he’s struggled to remain efficient in his shooting percentage. Paul is hands-down the best defensive opponent he’s seen thus far, and this will be a matchup of veteran experience versus youthful ambition.
The headlining matchup, however, will be between All-Star power forwards Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Griffin’s numbers this season haven’t been what we’ve come to expect from him, while LaMarcus Aldridge has put up the kind of stats everybody wants to see out of the team’s go-to player. Both players like to get out and run, but it’s Aldridge who is the true danger in the low-post game.
These two will fight for the boards all game long, so don’t be surprised if it gets extra physical at some point throughout the contest.
Portland: OUT—Elliot Williams
Los Angeles Clippers: N/A
A high-scoring contest benefits the Trail Blazers in most cases, but unfortunately for Rip City, the Clippers score at a higher rate and run at a faster pace than they do at this point in the season.