Los Angeles Clippers (22-13) @ Portland Trail Blazers (15-22)
7:30 p.m. PST
January 2, 2015
Fox Prime Ticket
1. What have you liked during the Clippers six-game winning streak?
Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU): The fact that the Clippers are on the NBA’s longest win streak is great, especially without PF Blake Griffin. But even more impressive than the streak itself is how well the Clippers have shot the basketball. The Clippers have made 49.2 percent of their FGs in the last 6 games, 2nd in the NBA to the Spurs in that particular split, while making 41.4 percent of their 3s in that span. Those are high volume 3s as well, with the Clippers making 11.2 3s per game in the last 6 games.
Sareen Tavidian (@sarenetavidian): The consistency of the Clippers bench. Doc Rivers has found the key (for now) and his name is Pablo Prigioni. Prigioni has unexpectedly stepped into the limelight. His communication on and off the court has established trust amongst the players and the ball seems to be flowing more easily. This new dynamic has led to the 6-game winning streak, and we hope it never ends.
Michael Shagrin (@mshaggy): I like that the Clippers were supposed to win all six games and they did. Dropping three games in a row San Antonio, Houston and OKC is kind of to be expected at this point. Not a single team that the Clippers took down during the streak currently sits above .500. So if the Clippers keep balancing out their losses to good teams with wins against bad teams, well then, what more can you ask for during the regular season?
2. Who’s more likely to work their way back into the rotation: Stephenson or Smith?
Murray: Well shoot, I’m just going to echo what head coach Doc Rivers said (h/t Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times): “I’m just worried about who I’m playing and then when someone else is not, then we’ll put Josh in or someone else in,” Rivers said. “But right now, why would you want to touch what’s going on?”
Tavidian: Both. Two eager and competitive athletes that just need the extra push and a way to gain Doc Rivers’ trust once again. As I mentioned earlier, Prigioni has stepped up his game, creating the dynamic that both Smith and Stephenson were unable to do, giving them less of an opportunity to find their way back into the rotation. But let’s be honest, with the way the Clippers are playing at this point half way into the season, Rivers is more interested in seeing what else he can accomplish with his existing rotation and the quicker, pass-shoot pattern with Crawford and Rivers.
Shagrin: You’ve got to go with Lance, right? If Josh Smith is falling out of the rotation while fellow large person and purveyor of Kias Blake Griffin sits out due to injury, then how can you expect him to get more minutes with a deeper corps of big men available? But Lance probably won’t get a fair shake. Austin Rivers scored 26 points this weekend! What plausible reason might there be to cut back the young man’s minutes?
3. What are the chances Portland makes the playoffs?
Murray: I’ll put it at 40 percent. That seems high, but the bottom of the West is wack. Portland looks likelier to lose 50 games than they are to sneak into the playoffs.
Tavidian: The unpredictable outcome of every single one of their games leads me to believe that the Portland Trailblazers will make it to the playoffs. The team’s ambition and eagerness is undeniable and evident at every turn, win or loss. You never know what the new year can bring with such a youthful team.
Shagrin: A roll of the dice. The Jazz have held onto the eighth spot even with a raft of short term injuries. But they’re simply the better team and they’ve got a four game lead on Portland in the loss column. I’m discounting Sacramento’s chances to move up and Houston’s chances to move down. Would you want to bet on Vivek or against James Harden?