What to watch: Clippers-Blazers

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
1:17
PM PT
Clippers (18-9) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (16-14) at Rose Garden, 7:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. On the road again: After returning from a six-game, 11-day trip the Clippers didn’t even get to sleep in their own beds after their first game at Staples Center in nearly two weeks. The team boarded a flight to Portland for the second game of a back-to-back against the Trail Blazers. The Clippers have not won at the Rose Garden since claiming a double overtime thriller in 2008 and had lost five straight and nine of 10 to Portland before defeating them Jan. 1 in Los Angeles. The Clippers lost their last game in Portland Jan. 10 but the Blazers have not been the same team since that win, losing three straight afterwards and going 9-12 after a 7-2 start.

2. No L.A.: The Clippers won’t have to deal with Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who will miss his second straight game with a sprained ankle. The All-Star had been averaging 22.6 points and 8.3 rebounds for Portland. His absence will likely mean Blake Griffin and the Clippers will see more of Nicolas Batum, who is averaging 13.1 points and 4.0 rebounds this season. Griffin, meanwhile is in the midst of one of the best seasons ever for a front court player. He is the only player this season in the NBA averaging more than 21 points, 11 rebounds and three assists per game. Since the introduction of the shot clock in 1954, only eight players (Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Lanier, Artis Gilmore, Jeff Ruland, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal) have finished a season with those averages.

3. Lawler’s Law: Clippers longtime announcer Ralph Lawler’s law is that the first to score 100 points in an NBA game wins. That hasn’t always been true but the Clippers have made Lawler look pretty good recently, winning nine of their last 12 games while averaging 100.5 points during the stretch. So far this season the Clippers are 10-0 when holding their opponents to under 90 points and are 14-2 when holding their opponents to under 100 points. The Clippers are also one of three undefeated teams this season when allowing 95 or fewer points. The Clippers are fifth in the NBA in points per game (98.6) and eighth in assists (22.0).

4. Key turnovers: When the Clippers lost to Dallas on Monday, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t focus on Griffin’s poor free-throw shooting or Caron Butler’s missed three-pointer at the end. He focused the turnovers. The Clippers turned the ball over 19 times in Dallas, led by Chris Paul, who had a season-high five. Against Portland, turnovers will once again be a key factor. The Clippers and Blazers are in the top seven in the league when it comes to protecting the ball and the team that does a better job of that Thursday should win the game.

5. The Butler did it: As difficult as it has been for road teams to win at the Rose Garden, Clippers forward Caron Butler is averaging 23.5 points and eight boards over his last four games in Portland. In the Clippers’ loss there last month, Butler scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds. Butler, who has a combined 44 points and 13 rebounds in his last two games, had his best game of the season in his homecoming game Monday in Dallas, scoring 23 points, grabbing eight rebounds and hitting five three-pointers. Look for Paul to feed Butler early to start the game and then work the ball inside to Griffin and DeAndre Jordan with Portland playing without Aldridge.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?