Think about this for a second: Each of the past 15 games the Clippers have faced either DEN or PHX. PHX demands a unique game plan and Denver presents the odd combination of a high-octane offense coupled with a bulky interior defense. The Clippers have been tailoring their game so specifically to the two teams that we've almost forgotten how they function on a nightly basis against more balanced squads.
Interesting evaluation by Blazer play-by-play man, Mike Barrett, of Portland's early-season challenges to find their identity:
The Blazers wanted to go big against Seattle, and were forced to go small. Then they were outplayed by a small lineup at Golden State on Friday, after the Warriors had gone big early in the game to match them. Saturday night, the Blazers wanted to go big, to match the Timberwolves size, but couldn't. They tried to slow the pace of the game against the Sonics and Warriors, and Saturday night tried to get out and run and speed things up. What we've seen is good coaching. Playing, and winning, different ways. That's the mark of a solid team.
One of the chestnuts of the NBA is that a professional basketball game is all about matchups. It may be a platitude or a cliché, but it's true. That's how the Clippers rebounded Saturday night. They told PHX, "if you're going to commit to covering out bigs down on the block, we're gonna use that space out on the perimeter to take you off the dribble or back you in." That was the problem with the first game against PHX. Instead of using that space to
do slash and post, the Clippers heaved up perimeter jumpers.
Portland presents an opportunity for the Clippers to get back to basics on offense - working the ball into EB with side screens, Maggette destabilizing the rotation through penetration on Randolph, Kaman setting up on the block and forcing McMillan to make a decision on whether Magloire needs help and, if so, from where.
Defensively, I suspect Mobley will draw Brandon Roy and Q. Ross will get Zach Randolph, who is an interesting assignment in that he's a solid post player who has really expanded his game, so much so that he's been starting at the SF for Portland. As much as POR has improved, that's their problem - they don't have anyone who can score down low.