Los Angeles Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers
7:30 p.m. PST
December 26, 2013
1. Would you rather have Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge?
Davis Vo, (@davisvo): Blake Griffin. Portland’s doing great, and Aldridge has been discussed has a potential MVP candidate, but has Aldridge really gotten that much better? He is rock solid as he’s always been, but statistically, he looks more or less the same ‘ole Aldridge. All he’s done is take more shots, and increase his overall rebounding numbers. I’ll take the guy who impacts the game more in different ways (i.e. passing) and is more efficient. Blake for me.
Jacob Frankel, (@jacob_frankel): Griffin is four years younger and is playing just as well, if not better than Aldridge at his absolute peak. Aldridge still has a below average true shooting percentage, and Blake has so much more room for growth, especially on the defensive end.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): Depends on your time frame. Today, Blake Griffin is preferable. Since the NBA Finals will almost certainly feature extended minutes of Lebron James at the four, freakish athleticism housed in a traditional power forward can counteract some of Miami’s small-ball voodoo. However, Aldridge has developed an old-school, Duncan-esque finesse that should age like an ’82 Bordeaux. Sorry for the cop-out folks.
2. Why have the Blazers been able to make such a jump from last year to this year?
Vo: Neil Olshey. The Portland Trailblazers had a poor excuse for a bench last season, but that issue was addressed when Olshey shrewdly acquired Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Mo Williams, and Dorell Wright on great value contracts this off-season. Add in C.J. McCollum, who hasn’t even played a minute yet this season, and we got ourselves an extremely talented and deep team.
Frankel: Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard, and Nicolas Batum are all shooting much better from three-point range than they did last year and the team is 7-1 in games that are within three points in the last 10 seconds. Those stats usually regress to the mean, being largely luck based. Swapping J.J. Hickson for Robin Lopez and adding an actual bench sure helped too.
Shagrin: Last year was a transition season. The Blazers had a new coach tasked with rallying a group plagued by injury and mutiny. Nicolas Batum publicly begged Paul Allen not to match an offer from Minnesota, Aldridge let on his disaffection for the Portlandia lifestyle, and Damian Lillard had yet to assert himself as “the man”. It also helps that Neil Olshey nabbed an undervalued big man in Robin Lopez while also bringing in reinforcements for what was the league’s worst bench unit.
3. What weakness do the Clippers need to exploit to win this game?
Vo: Despite ranking first in offensive efficiency, the Portland Trailblazers rank 22nd in defensive efficiency (104.5 points per 100 possessions). As Zach Lowe pointed out a few weeks back, Portland’s defensive scheme leaves them vulnerable for smart guards who shoot mid-range shots well off the pick-and-roll. Sound familiar? Chris Paul is salivating for tonights game after last night’s loss to the Warriors. Expect a big game for him.
Frankel: The Portland defense. The Blazers rank 22nd in defensive efficiency. This game is going to be a shootout. Meanwhile, Portland’s two worst defensive starters (Lillard, Adridge) play at the same position as the Clippers two best offensive players (Griffin, Paul).
Shagrin: This is a really good team. If Portland had a glaring, easily exploitable weakness, they wouldn’t currently be sharing the top spot in the West with Oklahoma City. But one issue ClipperBlog godfather Kevin Arnovitz noted today is that Robin Lopez often finds himself forced to protect the paint all on his own due to Stotts’ conservative defensive schemes. If the Clippers can find a way to keep Aldridge out of the interior, there should be plenty of short-range opportunities.