Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
12:30 p.m. PST
November 8, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
Video of the Day
Portlandia provides some pre-Clippers entertainment.
1. How worried should Clippers fans be right now?
Patrick James, (@patrickjames): Recency bias. Small sample size. Patience. Whatever. The team hasn’t looked like a contender since about the 44th minute of Game 5 of last year’s conference semifinals. And we know how that went. Nothing they’ve shown in the preseason or these first 5 games is particularly encouraging—even Griffin’s improved shooting is mitigated by his criminal negligence of the boards. If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention.
Law Murray, (@LawMurrayTheNU): More overreactions—I need them all! I love it when fans think the sky is falling. Now, I know most of you notice that the Clippers have a 3-2 record, so let me just address those who are worried: C-H-I-L-L. How are you going to be sounding alarms now?! This isn’t even a losing streak! Save your angst for later.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): They shouldn’t be worried about making they playoffs. They shouldn’t be nervous about even getting a high seed. Most of their problems—from the defense to Blake Griffin’s overly mid-range-heavy game—are fixable. But if you want to say the Clippers wing defense means they’re lower on the championship totem poll than we may have thought at the start of the season, you might be right.
2. What is wrong with the Clippers defense?
James: What’s wrong is everything that was wrong last year, when they gave up 108 points per 100 possessions to the league’s 12 best offensive teams. The difference was they had a great offense last year (miss you, Alvin). Redick has gone from respectable team defender to pick-and-roll sieve, Barnes is a year older and a step slower, and everyone’s inability to get defensive boards is giving teams extra opportunities to score (and providing fewer fast breaks for Lob City).
Murray: To keep it simple – they’re giving up all the good looks right now. I want to target the three-point defense—we’re talking about the best team in the league last year at defending the deep ball dropping all the way to 26th through the first ten days of the season. That’s an effort and focus task on the perimeter.
Katz: Communication. The Clips just aren’t talking well. You see guys go to the wrong assignments after switches. You see teammates failing to help the helper, especially when DeAndre strays from the paint. The Clips can get back to being a top-10 defense, even with the struggles on the wings, but they have to regain actual chemistry first.
3. Are the Blazers better or worse than they were last season when they won 54 games?
James: So last year the Blazers rocketed to a stellar start, and then nosedived. It’s too early to tell what happens this year, and their bench leaves something to be desired, but it’s reasonable to assume that Lillard will improve even more this year — which could have a steadying effect on their season’s arc.
Murray: When I released my NBA Lightweight Report last week, I had Portland winning their division and beating this Clippers team in round 2. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be better, as the head coach and starters are entering Year 3 together. Their second-half defense against Dallas was particularly impressive. They don’t force turnovers, but they make you work for shots.
Katz: They’re not worse, but they weren’t the caliber of a 54-win team last year. Does that make sense? Portland showed off the best form of its offense against Houston last year because their strengths (mid-range shooting, drive-and-kicks to shooters on the wings) exploited the Rockets’ weaknesses so well. The Blazers are clearly a strong team. It’s just hard to argue they’ll be top-five in the West once again.