Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
February 12, 2014
7:30 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Over/under .692 winning percentage for the 36-16 Blazers after the All-Star break.
Danny Nowell, TrueHoop Network, (@dmnowell): Under. The Blazers have a brutal, road-heavy March, and mixes in Western heavyweights with easier Eastern opponents. In the past six games, the Blazers have shown signs that they are defending more like they were in November, when they were a league-average unit, so if they can rediscover their shooting and continue to defend, perhaps they don’t fall off the pace too much. But it’s a tall order.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Under. Does rejecting the hipsters mean you’re a hipster? I’m one of the few members of #basketballtwitter not sipping the Blazers’ Kool-Aid. I don’t buy into them as a legitimate contender, and believe they’ll ultimately drop to the five-seed.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Under. The Blazers may have been the luckiest team in the league over the first half of the season, at least from a health standpoint. Portland is the only team in the NBA to have the same starting five for every game this season, and it is only 12-11 in its past 23 games. The Blazers are starting to come back to Earth. That trend will probably continue into the second half.
2. True or false: Damian Lillard is making a mistake by participating in all five All-Star events available to him.
Nowell: False. Why mistake? Sure, it’ll be tiring, but as tiring as a back to back? He’s in his second year, proven to be one of the most durable young guards in the game, and determined to establish himself as one of the most driven and fearless players in the league. I doubt he’ll succeed in more than, say, three events (counting the Rising Stars game), but I can’t see much harm here.
Buha: False. I think this issue is dumb (no offense, Fred). Who cares? He’s the first ever to partake in all five events, and that’s awesome. It’s an opportunity only available in your first two seasons, so why not take advantage of it? I don’t expect Lillard to ever participate in the dunk contest after this year, so he’d be in three events at most next season — and that’s probably optimistic.
Katz: Hey, Jovan. I think this issue is dumb, too. Maybe that’s why I made it the question. So take that. Lillard 22 years old. You see how easily every guard goes through the motions on the skill competition? You see how the dunk contest has been reduced to glorified layup lines? You see how the three-point contest is nothing more than practice shooting in front of a crowd? He’ll be fine.
3. Are Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge the two best power forwards in the NBA?
Nowell: Maybe. I think Blake makes the top 2 in almost any arrangement, but Chris Bosh and Kevin Love are difficult to separate for me. My instinct is that Bosh is perhaps the best power forward in the game full stop, while Love, for me, is a step behind Aldridge. Aldridge is a more capable defender than Love (though that hasn’t manifested itself in better team defense this year), but none of these players are easy to rank for me. Wait, is Anthony Davis a power forward? Dammit.
Buha: Nope. Kevin Love is the best power forward in the NBA. I think Blake Griffin is second, and then LaMarcus Alrdige and Chris Bosh have similar cases for third. For those who think Aldridge is better than Griffin – Griffin has the higher PER and W/S, comically better shooting numbers, draws fouls at a much higher rate, and is the better ball-handler and passer. Could Aldridge carry the Blazers if Damian Lillard was out 18 games? Don’t think so.
Katz: Unfortunately, no. Kevin Love and his 26 points and 13 rebounds a night fall somewhere in there. We always forget about Love because of how hapless the T’Wolves can seem at times, but at this point, he and Griffin as still the two best power forwards in the NBA.