Los Angeles Clippers (2) vs Portland Trail Blazers (1)
7:30 p.m. PST
April 25, 2016
1. Is his middle name Victor? Because Mason Plumlee is the real MVP, right?
Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU): I need folks to understand something — Game 3 was not a fluke. Mason Plumlee has been Portland’s major key against the Clippers. Plumlee had 18 points and 10 rebounds in Portland’s win over the Clippers in November, and his 21 rebounds and nine assists were consistent factors in Portland’s win on Saturday night. The assists have been the item to track: Plumlee didn’t have an assist in Game 1, but he had seven in Game 2. Trail Blazers not named Plumlee had only six assists combined in Game 3. And of those nine assists from Plumlee in Game 3, only four of them resulted in baskets by Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum. Plumlee is Portland’s most critical interior presence, and he’s their best play-maker right now. Shades of Bill Walton.
JD Evans: If Draymond is the W’s MVP, than Mason is Portland’s, which is to say no, but also much closer to yes than you’d expect. Without him, it’s 3-0. But without the back-court, they’re not in the playoffs.
Kaveh Jam (@kavehsroom): Before the series began I wrote that Portland – and specifically Mason Plumlee – had the size and quickness to at least keep up with the Clippers bigs. Let’s be honest, the Blazers are understandably a perimeter dependent team with the Lillard/McCollum tandem. But some credit should go to Coach Terry Stotts who recognized and adjusted to the Clippers hounding perimeter defense designed to key in and put Lillard in difficult situations. One way to counter the trap is for your bigs to show high and be active around the restricted area, something Plumlee has done to near perfection.
2. Sure Dame & CJ went off in Game 3 but should Doc be more worried about the anemic offensive performance of his troops?
Murray: Absolutely. For one, Portland’s offense wasn’t that good in Game 3, nor was it in Games 1 and 2. Portland didn’t go three straight games without scoring 100 points all regular season. They scored only a series-high 96 points in Game 3, and that was with 59 combined points from Lillard and McCollum and a 15-3 scoring burst in the last 3:51 to end the game. The Clippers defense should be fine. Los Angeles had issues scoring at the end of quarters and from the perimeter in both Games 1 and 2, but the new issues in Game 3 were a) J.J. Redick failing to get untracked, and b) Blake Griffin failing to get to the stripe. Both players are probably struggling with their respective injuries more than the Clippers are letting on. But it’s the playoffs. The Clippers can’t beat Portland without breaking 90 points.
Evans: Yep. There were to many easy baskets for the Blazers in game three, but also waaaaay too much one on one, and too many single pass plays by the clips that ended in jumpers. Credit Stotts for some good adjustments, but the Clips are a better offensive team than that.
Jam: Definitely. Portland is not exactly a juggernaut of a defensive team. They are, in fact, one of the worst defensive teams among the playoff teams. During the regular season they allowed over 104 points per game – good for 20th in the league. Even with the offense they have they were still barely in the positive in point differential (+0.8). The obvious issues arising from the Game 2 loss were Blake Griffin’s inefficiency and J.J. Redick’s off-night. Redick in particular never looked comfortable and logged only 24 minutes. Some of the reason for that could be because Doc felt Jamal Crawford had it going and letting him cut into Redick’s minutes. As long as he is healthy this could just be 1-game to file away. If not, then it is legitimately a reason to reassess moving forward.
3. Over/ Under: 5 minutes of action for Paul Pierce in Game 4?
Murray: I’ll take the over here. Pierce didn’t play much in Game 3 after taking that Game 2 DNP-CD. I just feel like Doc Rivers will find a spot to see if Pierce can hit some shots on the road. After all…
Evans: Over, but five minutes is a pretty low bar. Having said that, the Blake at center attempt to get the offense going was pretty grim at the other end of the court, and at some point something has to give at the swing forward spot.
Jam: Over. Pierce’s game is stationary at this point so he likely won’t be playing long enough to lumber around and become some liability. But more importantly, it is his playoff experience that is valuable. Pierce has historically thrived in playoff road situations and knowing Doc, he will likely find spurts at the end of quarters for a quick-hitting Pierce.