L.A. Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers
January 26, 2013 7:00 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
No, it’s not baseball season, but this is one of those odd scenarios when the Clippers have an MLB-like schedule. They go to Portland to take on the Blazers on Saturday night, only to welcome that same Blazer team to L.A. on Sunday. It’s a back-to-back. Against the same team. It’s time for Aldridge v. Griffin aplenty. It’s also time for 3-on-3 so let’s get to it:
1. Who would you rather have for one game right now: Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge?
Sean Highkin, Portland Roundball Society, (@shighkinNBA): I’d take Griffin. He’s having a more efficient scoring season than Aldridge, rebounds better, and has improved greatly as a defender. Aldridge is a slightly better midrange shooter which can cause some problems for defenses, but on a night-to-night basis his jumper isn’t that consistent. It would be a two-man race if Kevin Love was healthy, but right now it’s hard to argue that Blake isn’t the best power forward in the league.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Blake Griffin. He’s the better scorer, passer, ball-handler and rebounder. Aldridge edges him out defensively and with his shooting range, but there’s no doubt that Griffin’s the more efficient player. Kevin Love is a better rebounder and shooter — Griffin is the better passer, contrary to popular belief — but it seems Griffin has become the best and most complete power forward in the NBA.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Griffin. Aldridge is perceived to be a much more skilled offensive player, but Griffin actually shoots a better percentage in the post (48.1 percent to 45.7 percent). Aldridge is the better shooter and the better pick-and-pop player, but when you factor in rebounding, passing, and defense, Griffin’s got to be the guy.
2. How important is the matchup between the Clippers’ bench and the Blazers’ bench?
Highkin: It’s a huge advantage the Clippers have, because being able to bring guys like Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, a suddenly resuscitated Lamar Odom, and Grant Hill off the bench allows the Clips’ starters to be fresher in crunch time. They can also cover for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan somewhat if they get into foul trouble. The Blazers’ second unit involves Ronnie Price and Luke Babbitt.
Buha: A huge impact, so much so that it’ll likely determine the game. Last time these two teams met, the Blazers starters played reasonably well against the Clippers’ starters. Then the benches came in and the game became a blowout (the cycle repeated in the second half). The Blazers have arguably the worst bench in the league; the Clippers have the best. The second quarter is going to be ugly.
Katz: Terry Stotts’ players might need some oxygen with the amount of minutes he is playing them. Aldridge: 38 minutes per game. Lillard: 38.5 minutes per game. Batum: 39 minutes per game. There’s a reason those Portland starters seemingly never leave once their feet hit the floor. So yeah, the Clips’ bench could be the difference.
3. The Blazer that the Clippers need to stop in order to win this game is:
Highkin: Damian Lillard. With Chris Paul likely out, Lillard should have a pretty significant advantage over Bledsoe and Crawford. Nicolas Batum can be guarded by Caron Butler and Matt Barnes, and Griffin can handle Aldridge. CP3’s absence opens the door for a big night from Lillard.
Buha: Damian Lillard. Goran Dragic just dropped 24 points and 8 assists on the Clippers, and I expect Lillard to do something similar. As good as Eric Bledsoe is defensively, he has a tendency to roam and leave his man open for 3s or backdoor cuts. Aldridge and Nicolas Batum are capable scorers, but the Clippers have the individual defenders (Jordan, Odom, Hill and Barnes) to slow them down.
Katz: Nicolas Batum. Batum wasn’t particularly efficient (6-for-18 from the floor) the first time these two teams met, but he affected the game in so many other ways. He did it with defense, with nine rebounds, with five assists, with three steals. He got open looks, but he just didn’t take advantage. Usually, the Batum Raider sends those shots through the net. If he has the same type of looks tonight, Portland becomes that much more competitive.