Commentary

Watch this: Clippers-Blazers

Updated: January 10, 2012, 2:13 PM ET
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers have won three straight home games, against the Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers. Tuesday, they play the Blazers again in a tough road test before this week's other games against the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. Here are four things to pay attention to once the ball is tipped at the Rose Garden.


1. Seeing them again

Portland is the first team the Clippers are seeing twice this season, which means viewers Tuesday night will get a great look into the coaching battle between Nate McMillan and Vinny Del Negro. McMillan, being lauded around the league for the job he's done with the new-look Blazers, lost the first matchup, but it's likely he'll make a few changes to fix things he saw on tape.

Will Del Negro do the same? He could quiet some early-season skeptics with a good all-around approach in Portland.


2. Adding Billups

On New Year's Day, the Clippers took a big halftime lead against Portland then almost lost it all in the fourth quarter when dynamo guard Jamal Crawford started scoring. Luckily for the Clips, point guard Chris Paul proceeded to take control of the game in the final seconds and seal the win.

Portland has always been a slow-paced team under McMillan, but not this season. This season, with Crawford and Raymond Felton and Wes Matthews on the same squad, Portland is pushing the ball much more as one of the league's more running-based teams. The Clippers could defend that when Randy Foye was the 2-guard next to Paul in the starting lineup. What about now, with 35-year-old Chauncey Billups back at shooting guard? Can he and Paul slow down the Blazers' quick guards?

Another thing to note with Billups: If the game's not close late, will Del Negro pull him to conserve energy for Wednesday's back-to-back with Miami?


3. The road

Why did the Clippers lose 50 games last season?

Short answer: the road. They won only nine of 41 games away from home last season, tied for sixth-worst in the NBA. Heck, even the Sacramento Kings, who won only 24 total games all season, won 13 road contests. Had the Clippers produced even a mediocre road record, they could have approached .500 on the season and challenged for a playoff spot, like the sixth-seeded New York Knicks did in the Eastern Conference with the same home mark as the Clips.

One of the underrated keys to this season, then, is winning on the road. And Tuesday's game -- good, not great opponent but tough atmosphere -- is exactly the type of contest the Clippers need to win.


4. Rebounding

They've played fewer games than everybody else, but the Clippers' per-game rebounding numbers are still the worst of any team in the league. New acquisition Reggie Evans, who made his debut Saturday against Milwaukee, will bring that number up some. But the Blazers are an elite rebounding team, averaging 25 percent more boards than the Clippers through two-plus weeks of the season.

All of the Clippers' other goals for this game are going to be hard to meet if they can't keep the rebounding margin reasonably close. Center DeAndre Jordan might be the biggest culprit, averaging just seven per game in 30 minutes of play. To put that in perspective, the Clippers' Brian Cook and new New Orleans Hornets forward Al-Farouq Aminu are rebounding more efficiently than Jordan so far.

Pedro Moura is a contributor to ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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