Clippers-Trail Blazers Preview – ESPN
The Portland Trail Blazers may be at their best when producing on the defensive end.
That doesn’t mean their offensive explosiveness has slowed any.
The Trail Blazers will look to continue one of their best defensive stretches of the season and grab a fifth consecutive win Wednesday night when they face the Los Angeles Clippers, losers of five straight road games.
Portland (30-8) has held each of its last four opponents under 100 points, winning all four by an average margin of 10.7 points. The Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 106-94 on Sunday to move a season-best 22 games over .500.
The 100-point mark has been an important checkpoint for Portland’s defensive efforts this season regardless of offensive production, as the Trail Blazers are 25-2 when holding the opposition to 100 or fewer points.
“Last year we were a young team and we were new to winning. I think now we are one of those teams,” said Damian Lillard. “We win without depending on offense. We play together, we get along, we are confident in ourselves.
“We’ve won 30 games. I just think we have to keep the same mentality that we’ve had.”
Even with the main focus on defense, their offense remains as dynamic as ever thanks to Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland ranks near the top of the NBA with 103.8 points per game, 45.1 of which is provided by the combined efforts of Lillard and Aldridge — the highest combined scoring average among teammates in the Western Conference.
Lillard scored 34 in Portland’s win over the Lakers on Sunday for his second 30-plus-point effort in his last four games.
“I wanted to get some popcorn and just have a seat,” Aldridge said of his teammate. “He got to the rim, finished strong, and made his shots. I don’t mind it at all.”
Lillard had 25 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in Portland’s previous meeting with the Clippers (25-13) this season, but the Trail Blazers executed one of their worst defensive efforts of the season in a 106-102 road loss on Nov. 8.
Strong shooting, which has become extremely important for the Clippers this season, played a significant role in that victory as well. J.J. Redick scored 30 points on 11-of-13 shooting and Los Angeles posted a 49.4 field goal percentage.
The Clippers are 18-1 when they shoot 46.5 percent or better from the field — a trend that continued Sunday when they shot just over 45 percent in a 104-90 loss to Miami.
Coach Doc Rivers knows that rediscovering their offensive touch on Wednesday will be no easy task.
“I think where they’ve had the biggest jump is in their defense,” Rivers said of Portland. “They’re so much better. Last year they were a great offensive team and they struggled defensively. This year they’re a great offensive team and they’re very, very good defensively.”
Sunday’s loss closed a 6-3 homestand for the Clippers, who play 11 of their next 15 on the road. They have lost five straight away from Los Angeles for their longest skid since dropping seven in a row from Jan. 14-Feb. 8, 2011.
Chris Paul scored 22 in the Nov. 8 win and has tallied 11 or more assists in each of his past four matchups with Portland. Blake Griffin has also played well against the Trail Blazers lately, averaging 31.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in the past three meetings.
The Blazers have won three straight at home against the Clippers.