Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers (-3, 206 o/u)
The Southwest Division-leading Portland Trail Blazers (39-19, 14-13 away) finish up a mini two-game road trip tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers (40-21, 23-8 home) at the STAPLES Center (10:30 p.m. Eastern).
Portland kept up its winnings ways over the weekend, beating the Kings 110-99 in Sacramento. Leading the way was point guard Damian Lillard, who scored 31 points and added seven dimes. As a team, the Blazers went 10/24 from three-point range in the game and are now shooting 43.4-percent from beyond the arc over their last three.
“I feel good,” Lillard said after the win, Portland’s third straight. “I’ve been feeling good but shots weren’t falling and things weren’t going our way as a team. So it was a little rough. But now it does feel like things are starting to turn around.”
Despite the three-game win streak, Portland’s leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (23.3 PPG) is struggling, shooting 34.0-percent during his last five games. Aldridge’s recent downturn has contributed to the Blazers losing eight of the last ten on the road.
“It’s just been one of those things, the road losses,” said Wes Matthews. “We have learned from it. This time of year you need to get every win you can. Every win is a big one.”
Unfortunately for the Blazers, the team is heading into the STAPLES Center tonight and they’re not playing the Lakers. Despite losing 90-87 to the Grizzlies in their last home contest, the Clippers have been one of the best home teams in the league this season (tied for fifth in the league at 24-8).
The team has stayed hot despite playing without Blake Griffin for the past three weeks, winning seven of ten without their leading scorer. (The Clippers’ hot stretch has them a 1.5 games up on Portland for the third seed in the Western Conference.)
Point guard Chris Paul has truly upped his game since Griffin went down, averaging 21.2 PPG and shooting 52.2-percent. Paul put in 26 points and added 14 assists in Monday’s 110-105 win at Minnesota, which ended L.A.’s four-game road trip.
“It’s over now. We won … I just want to go home,” a tired Paul said to the AP after the game.
Despite the relatively high score, defense keyed the win for the Clips. The team allowed just one field goal in the fourth quarter and center DeAndre Jordan, the NBA’s leading rebounder, hauled in 18 boards including 13 on the defensive glass.
Even though the Clippers are 13-17 ATS as home favorites, the squad is 6-4 ATS over its last ten games, indicating that lines are swinging a little too far in the absence of Griffin. That’s why Los Angeles, laying the points (-3), is the play.
(Photo credit: Verse Photography (Flickr: 20131118 ClippersvGrizzles27) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)