Gameday Report: Clippers host streaking Blazers before road trip
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The Clippers (37-31) will take on the Portland Trail Blazers (43-26) on Sunday at STAPLES Center, in the third matchup of the season between the two teams.
Each team has won on the other’s home floor so far this season. The Clippers defeated the Blazers, 104-103, in Portland on Oct. 26, and Portland knocked off LA, 104-96, at STAPLES Center on Jan. 30.
Here are a few things to look for in Sunday’s matchup:
Desperation time for LA –
There are only 14 games left in the regular season, and coming off back-to-back losses at Houston and Oklahoma City this past week, the Clippers desperately need to get back in the win column.
LA is currently ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans. The Clippers are only 2 games behind fifth-seeded Utah Jazz, sixth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves and the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs, and 3.5 games behind the third-seeded Trail Blazers.
After Sunday’s tilt with the Blazers, who are the West’s third seed, LA will have remaining games against Denver, San Antonio, Utah, New Orleans and Minnesota, all teams above them in the standings. They will also travel to face the Blazers for the teams’ final matchup of the season on March 30.
In short, each of LA’s remaining games are crucial, not only because the Clippers need wins, but because they need teams currently above them to lose. They can begin their mission with a victory over Portland on Sunday.
Luckily for LA, several of their key players are playing their best basketball in recent weeks.
In eight games this month, center DeAndre Jordan is averaging 16.0 points and 18.9 rebounds, after scoring 11 points and grabbing 21 rebounds on Friday in OKC. He has tallied at least 20 rebounds four times in the last eight outings. And with his 24-point performance on Friday, forward Tobias Harris is averaging 22.7 points and 7.1 rebounds this month, while shooting 49.6 from the field, 41.7 from three and 89.5 percent from the line.
In addition, guard Austin Rivers finished Friday with 23 points, after scoring 20 on Thursday in Houston. It was the first time Rivers scored 20+ points in consecutive games since Dec. 22 at Houston and Dec. 23 at Memphis, when he set career-highs of 36 points and 38 points, respectively.
Red-hot Blazers –
The Clippers will look to accomplish what no team has done in over a month…defeat Portland.
The Blazers are winners of 12 straight, dating back to Feb. 11. They lead Oklahoma City by 2 games for the third seed in the West.
In order to slow down Portland, teams will have to slow down their point guard Damian Lillard, who has been on a tear during the team’s winning streak.
Over the last 11, Lillard is averaging 31.7 points, 6.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds. He has scored at least 30 points in six of the last 11 games, and he’s scored 40 or more twice over that stretch.
The Blazers have also been doing it on defense during their winning streak, holding opponents to 100.2 points per game over the last 11, fourth best in the NBA since Valentine’s Day. Portland is also allowing opponents to shoot 44.7 percent from the field over the last 11, third best in the league in that time span, and Portland opponents are shooting 32.1 percent from three since Feb. 14, also third best in the NBA.
Sunday’s game will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. PDT.