The last week has not been kind to the Portland Trail Blazers (3-4). They blew a 21 point lead Saturday night to the Embiidless 76ers and were thoroughly outclassed and outcoached Monday night against the G-League Warriors. Tonight they head into Los Angeles to take on a rested Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers (5-3).
The Clippers are on the second night of a back-to-back. They lost last night to the Milwaukee Bucks, 129-124. Montrezl Harrell scored a career-high 34 points last night, Lou Williams also had 34, but that was not a career-high for him. Quite a few players for the Clippers logged over 30 minutes last night including Harrell and Williams, Patrick Beverley and Jeff Green did as well.
But Kawhi Leonard is well rested and will be starting tonight for Doc Rivers and company.
This has not been good for the Blazers at all this year. While they are 10th in the league in scoring (114.4 ppg) they are also 23rd in scoring defense (115.3 ppg) and 22nd in defensive rating (110.9). This friends is not a good look for the team.
On Saturday night the team gave up 84 points in the pain to the 76ers which is pretty embarrassing. Granted Hassan Whiteside was not healthy and didn’t suit up. On Monday against the Warriors after Whiteside had a great few series changing and blocking shots, Kerr changed the Warriors sets and started pulling Whiteside above the free throw line. This allowed the Warriors to run multiple back cuts and set high picks on Whiteside to free up Willie Caulie-Stein for some easy baskets.
One of the main culprits of allowed back cuts was CJ McCollum. He could not keep anyone in front of him at all against the Warriors. Ky Bowman, Damien Lee, and Jordan Poole ate him alive. Now, if the Warriors were healthy, they would not be seeing the floor, or would be playing in some gym in Santa Cruz.
CJ’s defensive ratings the last two games is a 134 and a 129.
And it’s not like anyone else is really attempting to play defense outside of Whiteside either. Whiteside, Mario Hezonja, and Kent Bazemore are the only Blazers that are a sub-110 on the season for defensive efficiency.
Terry Stotts needs to look at his rotations and get things figured out. The Clippers are a potent offensive team even without Kawhi Leonard on the floor. They are shooting nearly 50% from the floor for the season and 36% from three as well. This is pretty average for the league, but when teams play the Blazers their FG% goes up as does the 3P%.
I think we see the Clippers score north of 125 tonight.
What is up with CJ?
I harped on his defense, but his offense has not been the greatest so far this year either. He is averaging north of 20 points but has been vastly inconsistent this year. He has a -0.2 VORP, which means the Blazers would be better off with an average replacement level player than CJ. Hell, the eye test says that Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons are a better backcourt duo right now than Dame and CJ. And Simons makes $25 million less a year than CJ.
On Monday CJ had nine first half points and didn’t score again until the final three minutes of the game. This is not the first time this has happened this season. You forget he’s on the floor for long stretches of time on offense, then curses at him to play defense on the other end. If it wasn’t for that you might not know he was even playing.
CJ was projected to compete for an All-Star slot this year. So far I think we can line him up for the MRP or the Most Regressed Player award.
Tonight CJ is going to have to deal with a combination of Leonard or Beverley on the defensive end. It might not be the night for him to get back on track.
Hood is probably going to be the one with a favorable matchup on the offensive end. He will either draw Landry Shamet, maybe even Patrick Patterson. Though, I think Patterson will be on Hezonja or Anthony Tolliver to start the game. The Blazers are going to need Hood to have a hot shooting night as he did against the 76ers. He was slow on Monday with that bruised left knee, so hopefully, he can rebound tonight and play an above-average game. If the Blazers are to have a chance then Hood needs to score 15 or more points this evening.
The Clippers boast one of the deeper benches in all of the NBA. In fact, they have probably the best bench in the league. The Blazers bench is pretty lacking at the moment. It’s unclear of Harrell is going to start again tonight or come off the bench with Lou Williams.
The Blazers don’t have the firepower to match the Clippers, unless Simons and Skal Labissiere combine for sixty points off the bench tonight.
I’m going to take the Clippers in this 132-117. Lillard scores 40 and keeps the Blazers close, but Kawhi and Lou Williams break any and all hopes of a victory with a crushing 4th quarter.
How to watch
Time: 7:30 PM