L.A. Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
January 27, 2013 6:30 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
The Clippers have lost four in a row for the second time this season. But what does that really mean? Last time they lost four straight they followed it up with 17 consecutive victories. Now onto 3-on-3:
1. How concerned should Clippers’ fans be with this four-game losing streak?
Sean Highkin, Portland Roundball Society, (@shighkinNBA): By taking a few deep breaths and remembering that Chris Paul is hurt. Eric Bledsoe has done a fine job running the starting unit in his absence, but the Clippers’ second unit has suffered greatly from not having Bledsoe. If CP3 comes back in a week or two like we think, they’ll be fine.
Jordan Heimer, (@jordanheimer): Translation: how worried should we be about Chris Paul’s health. The Clippers have long been notorious for keeping the time-tables on their injured players as opaque as possible. What’s especially troubling is the emerging pattern of bringing back injured players for a few games only to see them back in street clothes a few days later. Has there been an MRI? Did Paul reinjure the knee while he was allowed to limp through the second half of the Warrior game?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Somewhat concerned. The last two losses shouldn’t have happened, with or without Chris Paul. The Suns are arguably the worst team in the West, and the Clippers had a nine-point lead with two minutes left over the Blazers. The only concern is that the poor play can compound — L.A.’s next eight games are on the road.
2. True or false: The Clippers will contain Nicolas Batum.
Highkin: True. Despite having a borderline All-Star year, Batum’s play tends to get lost among the more highly publicized excellence of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, which results in those two being the focus of opponents’ game plans. Batum’s triple-double will wake the Clippers up.
Heimer: True, but only because I’m putting my faith in a return to the mean. The combination of the Clippers’ aggressive trapping and relatively slow recovery continues to result in open looks for teams that can effectively swing the ball. Luckily, Batum is a career mediocrity from deep and isn’t likely to make 4 two games in row… but that doesn’t mean the opportunity won’t be there.
Buha: False. Unless Matt Barnes and Grant Hill play a lot more. It’s that simple — the Clippers have a starting wing duo (Caron Butler and Willie Green) that can’t stop anybody. Their struggles against good wing players shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially since almost all of their minutes are coming against starters.
3. True or false: The Blazers’ starters played too many minutes Saturday night to be fresh for Sunday’s game.
Highkin: True. They all played in the mid-30s to early-40s last night, and that was at home with two days’ rest. Tonight, they’re on the second half of a home-and-road back-to-back against a team they needed a late 10-0 run to beat last night.
Heimer: True. Too many minutes Sunday, too many minutes this month, too many minutes all season. But you don’t necessarily have to be fresh to beat a struggling team.
Buha: True. But I don’t think it matters. The NBA season is a long grind, and this isn’t Portland’s first back-to-back in which the starters played a lot in the first game. They may have to lean on their bench a little more, which bodes well for LA, but this game will be dictated by how well the Clippers can execute their offense and get stops.