PREGAME REPORT | JANUARY 26, 2013
Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. PST | Rose Garden | Portland, OR | Game Notes »
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PORTLAND – The up and down nature of the season, as Lamar Odom has indicated in the past, may be part of the NBA. But the Clippers hope their recent three-game swoon ends Saturday night.
It has been more than two months since the Clippers (32-12) lost four games in a row, and on Saturday, in their first of back-to-back games against the Portland Trail Blazers (21-21), they try to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the year.
“It’s part of the season,” Odom said of the last three games. “It goes up and down, up and down. If you think about our record over the last 25 or 30 games it’s pretty good. But we have to focus, especially on the road tonight. It’s a tough place to play. If we play the right way, we’ll be alright.”
Portland enters the game well-rested. They last played Wednesday, beating the Pacers in Portland and snapping a season-high six-game losing streak. The Trail Blazers, known for their rowdy home crowd, have amassed a 14-8 record at the Rose Garden this year. One of those eight losses, though, came Nov. 8, when the Clippers jumped out to a 25-point second-quarter lead, withstood Portland’s valiant comeback attempt and left the Northwest with a 103-90 victory.
That win for L.A. had a lot to do with the workings of Chris Paul, who has missed five of the last seven games and will remain a game-time decision Saturday with a bruised right kneecap.
LAST TIME OUT
Suns 93, Clippers 88: It was a game that Griffin said “didn’t feel right” and by the end he didn’t feel right either. The Clippers struggled from the field, shooting below 40% for the fourth time this season, and Griffin, who had boasted consecutive monster statistical games, was hampered by a sprained left ankle that he sustained in the first quarter.
Griffin finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Jamal Crawford had a team-high 21 off the bench. But Crawford missed 1-of-2 free throws in the final seconds that could have cut the Suns’ lead to one and Caron Butler was whistled for a clear-path foul as he prevented a breakaway dunk by Shannon Brown on the ensuing Phoenix possession.
“We had a little slippage but we just have to know exactly where we want to go in the fourth quarter,” Crawford said. “And that’s what we were so good at previously and I think we’ll get back to it.”
Goran Dragic scored a game-high 22 points for Phoenix and Luis Scola had eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Suns moved to 2-0 under interim coach Lindsey Hunter.
Trail Blazers 100, Pacers 80: LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points, his front-court mate J.J. Hickson had 13 rebounds and Portland ended a six-game losing streak by hammering the Pacers at the Rose Garden. The Blazers shot a season-high 56.4% from the field in the win and pulled away after leading by a dozen at halftime. Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard scored 20 points with eight assists, while first-time All-Star Paul George paced Indiana with 22 points and seven rebounds.
Blake Griffin vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. The Western Conference All-Star team had few surprises on its 12-man roster, but the selection of Aldridge may have been the most curious. While he remains one of the top power forwards in the West, his team is currently ninth in the standings and his individual output is worse than it has been in his previous two seasons. The long-armed, highly-skilled big man also tends to not match up that well with Griffin, his fellow All-Star.
Last season, they each averaged 19.1 points per game in 66 minutes on the court together. But Griffin shot 58% in that span with Aldridge on the floor compared to 55% against Portland with Aldridge on the bench. In six career-meetings, Griffin has out-rebounded Aldridge by 6.1 boards per 36 minutes.
Griffin, who participated in a light workout Friday despite his sore left ankle, has been dominant in the last five games overall for the Clippers, averaging 21.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and more than a block and a steal per game.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Setting the tone early. Griffin said Thursday night that he needs to assert himself more in the beginning of games without Paul to set the tone. On the road in Portland it will be paramount for the Clippers to get off to a start similar to the previous visit when they jumped on the Trail Blazers early. It immediately subdued a usually raucous crowd and propelled L.A. to its 13-point win.
Lately, the Clippers have not fared well in the first. They have only led twice after the first 12 minutes in the last six games (both wins) and were held to 44 points combined in first period of their the last two outings.
The perimeter. The Trail Blazers are among the league’s leaders in 3-point makes (8.1 per game), but shoot just 33.6% (26th in the league).The Clippers have struggled shooting from long range lately. They are 17th in 3-point percentage (35.1%), but in three of the last four games have made six or less. Whichever team wins the perimeter battle, may come out on top. The Clippers are 19-3 this season when they shoot a higher percentage from 3-point range than their opponent.
DeAndre Jordan and Hickson are both in the top 10 in the NBA in field goal percentage. Jordan is ranked third (59.9%), while Hickson is seventh (55.1%)… Crawford scored 25 points off the bench last time the teams played in Portland. It was his first game back in the Rose City since signing with the Blazers after the lockout… The Clippers have won two in a row and three of the last four in the series. Portland had won nine of the previous 10.
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