Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers will travel to Los Angeles for a Western Conference showdown with the Clippers on Tuesday night. The game will come on the tail of a 3-0 week for the Blazers, who are riding high off the addition of Carmelo Anthony. Melo received Western Conference Player of the Week honors on Monday. He averaged 22.3 points, 7.7 rebounds on 57.4 percent from the field and 45.5 percent on his 3s. The Blazers have been energized since Melo joined the team, and there’s a chance this feel-good story stays that way. Anthony is a better choice over Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver who were receiving the bulk of the minutes at power forward before Melo was signed.
The Clippers’ superstar duo is still working on developing chemistry and the early signs are right in line with what I expected. The Clippers beat the Wizards 150-125 on Sunday, looking dominant from the tipoff.
Time: 10 PM ET
Arena: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Blazers: Zach Collins (O), Jusuf Nurkic (O), Gary Trent (Q)
Clippers: Rodney McGruder (O), Landry Shamet (O)
Portland Trail Blazers Starting Lineup
The Blazers come into this matchup with an extended break since their last game. They last played on Friday in a game they won 107-103 against the Chicago Bulls. Portland held Chicago to 38.3 percent shooting from the field. The standout from the contest was Hassan Whiteside who recorded a franchise-record 10 blocks in the game. He added to the historical night with eight points and 15 rebounds. Anthony was asked to recollect on a time in which he played with a guy who matched Whiteside’s feat.
“Never seen that before, and I’ve played with some great shot blockers,” Anthony said. “Tyson Chandler was a great shot blocker, Marcus Camby was a great shot blocker. I’ve never seen a guy with 10 blocks in a game.”
Damian Lillard led the way for the Blazers with 28 points. Melo chipped in 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting, 11 rebounds, and four assists, CJ McCollum had 20 points and seven rebounds, and Rodney Hood put up 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting.
The Melo Experiment is working! At least it is so far, and I’m here for all of it. He’s still bad defensively, and there’s no way at this stage in his career that there is going to be a magic lightbulb that goes off in his head and pushes him to become a lockdown guy. Teams will continue to hunt for him on switches off of screens, and he’ll get burned a few times a game, but it doesn’t matter because Portland brought him on board to provide scoring relief for Lillard and McCollum, and he’s done just that. Melo is averaging 30.7 minutes per game–a lot for a guy who’s been away from the NBA for as long as he has–but he’s playing hard and not showing signs of fatigue. He’s averaging 17.7 points, six rebounds, and 2.2 assists while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from the 3-point line. Portland fans can continue to cheer because Hezonja is no longer in the “stretch-4” role.
Los Angeles Clippers Starting Lineup
The Clippers scored 34 or more points in each quarter in their beatdown of the Washington Wizards on Sunday night. They led by as many as 32, won the rebound battle 52-43, and shot 55.3 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from the 3-point line.
Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points on 14-for-21 shooting and added six rebounds and three assists. His running mate, Paul George, added 31 points and eight rebounds along with four made 3s. The Bench Boyz–or whatever you want to call them–composed of Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams had big nights themselves. Williams scored 22 points on 6-for-10 shooting and Harrell had 23 points and 15 rebounds. Williams credited the Clipper’s aggressiveness for the win.
“We just came out a little bit more aggressive as a unit,” Williams said. “We were very efficient on the offensive end. The shots we took a lot of time were ones we wanted to take.”
After the news broke that Leonard and George were joining forces I became a part of the crowd that believed this team was the favorite to win the title this year. Seeing just how seamlessly George can play off of Leonard, who is more inclined to isolate is amazing. George knows when to make a move for a cut, when to come to the ball to run a pick-and-roll and where to position himself to receive a pass for a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer. The last skill is so valuable, with all the attention a Leonard/Harrell or Williams/Harrell pick-and-roll draws it’s important to have floor-spacers. It makes it that much harder for defenses to guard the pick-and-roll when one of those shooters is an all-star of George’s quality who is taking 6.3 catch-and-shoot 3s per game and knocking them down at a rate of 39.7 percent.
The Clippers, who sit in the third spot in the West aren’t even remotely close to their ceiling and already look like a terror on both ends.
Key Player Matchups
Paul George vs. CJ McCollum
Matchups like this really highlight just how dangerous the Clippers are. Paul George is slotting in as the shooting guard; he measures in at 6-foot-8 while McCollum stands at 6-foot-3. If George is used as the defender on McCollum for the majority of this game it’s going to be a very long night for the Blazer’s shooting guard. PG has the length to bother any straight away jumpers and is a master at slithering through screens to effect shots from the side or behind. Don’t hold your breath on McCollum having a good shooting night tonight.
Kawhi Leonard vs. Rodney Hood
Despite battling knee soreness, Leonard has produced at a high level. He’s averaging 25.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. His efficiency has wavered a bit this season and his shot seems flat in just about every first quarter I’ve watched him play in. None of that really matters here. Hood is a solid wing who is shooting a blistering 50.8 percent from behind the arc, but being tasked with sticking to Leonard is going to be where the Blazers are going to really need Hood tonight. I just don’t think it’s going to go well.
Patrick Beverly vs. Damian Lillard
Lillard is quietly having another stellar season. I say quietly because not many people cared about his numbers since the Blazers were in a tailspin. They’ve recovered somewhat, after the Melo acquisition so I think it’s appropriate to point at how great Dame has been. In his eighth season, Lillard is averaging a career-high in points (27.3), assists (7.3), and effective field goal percentage (53.4). He’s seen plenty of Patrick Beverly throughout the years, and there’s not a single person in the league Dame is afraid of. That won’t stop Beverly from barking and snarling after forcing Lillard to miss two straight jumpers, and I’m ready for that moment when Lillard drills tow 30-footers in Beverly’s grill.
Leonard is the top fantasy pick for this matchup. He is productive in just about every counting category and he’s playing against a team whose weakest position is the wing. He’s available for $10.2k on FanDuel with projections for 43.5 points. His teammate, George is going for $9.3k and projected for 38.2 fantasy points.
The Blazers will need everything they can get from their backcourt, where the majority of the team’s fantasy production can be found. Lillard is going for a salary of $9k with projections set for 40.9 points. McCollum, who lines up next to Lillard is available for a salary of $6.9k with projections for 31.1 points.
Bet on Matchup
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