Both coming off losses, the Portland Trail Blazers and the LA Clippers will face off in Los Angeles for their first meeting of the early season. The Clippers are 5.5-point favorites in this game with Kawhi Leonard back in their lineup.
Defense Must Improve
Portland is on a two-game losing skid, falling to the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers since their last win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Blazers’ defense has come up short in their last two games, giving up 127 and 129 points and making it almost impossible for them to make that up on offense. Both of those scores are above their season average, where they are allowing 115 points per game. They will have to get back down to those numbers or lower if they want to keep up with Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers.
On offense, the Trail Blazers are averaging 114.4 points per game and shooting 46.5 percent from the field. They did top that average in their last two games as well, with 118 and 128 points, but it will be tough to match against the Clippers’ tough defense.
Leading the Trail Blazers in both points and assists so far this season has been Damian Lillard, who has become a hometown hero for Portland. Lillard is averaging 31.1 points and 7.3 assists per game. Newcomer Hassan Whiteside is leading Portland in the paint with 12 rebounds a game.
While Portland has a good roster, it is going to be facing another tough test in the Clippers. They are currently just 3-4 this season and need to play their best game this season if they want to steal a win in Los Angeles.
The Clippers were listed as one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals coming into the season after landing Leonard and trading for Paul George. They have started the season with a 5-3 record after taking a loss in their last game to the Bucks. Leonard sat out for that game due to what the Clippers are calling “load management.” What could have been a marquee matchup turned into a 129-124 loss at home to the Bucks.
Despite missing the last game, Leonard has delivered early for the Clippers, leading them in points, assists, and rebounds. Leonard has averaged 29.3 points, 5.7 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game. Although many expected this out of Leonard, what he really brings to the team is a defense that most NBA teams don’t have.
Even though they have some of the best defensive players in the league on their roster, with the huge rise in points in the NBA, they are still allowing 110 points per game. On offense, they are posting 114.3 points per game, and considering Leonard was out for their last loss, they seem to be on the right track early in the season.
While the NBA season is long and no one is facing any kind of “must-win” games, after sitting their star player in their last game at home, the Clippers would like to deliver a big win here to show everyone what they are going to be able to accomplish this year.
What To Expect
After coming off a loss in their last game, I expect the Clippers to bounce back big and play hard to their full potential. I think we will see a big game out of a well-rested Leonard on both ends of the court, which will lead to a 10-point Clippers win.