The Clippers will face the Portland Trail Blazers on the road Thursday night in Portland in their second back-to-back situation of the early season.
The game at the Rose Garden could test the Clippers (3-2), as it will be the first back-to-back in which a home game is followed by a true away game. Six days ago they played the Lakers at Staples Center as the road team, followed by a home game versus the Warriors.
Though the Clippers defeated the Spurs with a convincing, 106-84, win Wednesday night, the team looks forward to Portland with a new mindset: take nothing for granted.
After starting the season with two wins in a row, the Clippers lost consecutive home games against the Warriors and Cavaliers.
“We proved if you don’t show up to play you can get beat by anybody,” Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. “We have to stay consistent. We can’t be like a roller coaster with so many ups and downs.”
Taking care of the ball and controlling the glass, two keys against an up-and-coming Portland team (2-2), are part of that pledge for consistency. Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro believes his team must continue to build on both weaknesses.
“We have to mature and continue to do so as a team,” Del Negro said. “We have to go through the aches and pains of a new season and a new team and understand where we are together. We have a lot of improving to do and the mindset has to be like that in terms of being more efficient in a lot of areas.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 106, Spurs 84: Clippers center DeAndre Jordan had a breakout game with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while six of his teammates also posted double figures in the Clippers’ win at home. The Spurs could not get things going offensively, as they committed 20 turnovers, and no player attempted more than eight shots. Jordan, Blake Griffin (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Chris Paul (10 points and 12 assists) all had double-doubles.
Mavericks 114, Trail Blazers 91: Despite 20 points and seven rebounds from power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers fell on the road to a hot-shooting Dallas team. The Mavericks were led by O.J. Mayo’s 32 points. Portland shot just 38% from the field and 22% from beyond the arc, compared to the Mavs’ 61.5% from the field and 50% from long distance.
Chris Paul vs. Damian Lillard. The point guard matchup between the Clipper veteran and the rookie from Portland will dictate the tempo of the game, as both can quickly break down the defense and score. Lillard recently became the first rookie since Oscar Robertson (1960-61) to start his career with three consecutive games of 20-plus points and seven-plus assists. After struggling against Dallas (2-for-13 FG and 1-for-8 3-point FG), he will look to be aggressive against Paul and reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe. Paul is averaging a double-double with 18.5 points and 11.5 assists per game, committing just 2.5 turnovers per contest.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
The rebounding battle. Portland is 12th in the league in rebounds with 43.8 per game, while the Clippers are 27th with 38.6 per contest. Facing a tough frontcourt of Aldridge and J.J. Hickson, who is sixth in the league averaging 11.3, on the road, the Clippers must box out and control the paint.
“We struggled with rebounding last year, so I’m hoping we can amend that a little bit this year,” Del Negro said. “The last couple games, Memphis and the Lakers, with big frontlines, we haven’t performed well. We have to do a better job on the glass overall to play at a much higher level.”
LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge will match up well with Griffin, as the two power forwards are averaging similar lines. Aldridge is putting up 22 points and nine boards a contest on 43% shooting from the field, while Griffin is posting 17.4 points and 8.4 rebounds a game on 45% from the field. Griffin may have a little extra incentive in the matchup as Aldridge declared in a recent interview on Portland radio station 1080 The Fan: “I feel like I’m the best power forward in the game.”
The Clippers won last season’s series against the Trail Blazers 3-1, though the Trail Blazers have won 13 of the past 18 meetings against the Clippers… Clippers guard Jamal Crawford played with Portland during the 2011-12 season, averaging 14 points in 60 games. He’s averaging 21.2 per game to start his first year with the Clippers, good for ninth in the NBA... The Clippers have scored 100 or more points in each of their first five games. They are one game away from matching the franchise record set in 1985-86 for consecutive games topping 100 points to start a season.