Los Angeles Clippers vs Portland Trail Blazers: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/30/18
The Trail Blazers suffered a terrible loss against Memphis on Wednesday, and will be desperate to bounce back at home against the Clippers
The Trail Blazers are charging their way towards the third seed in the Western Conference but suffered a hugely disappointing loss on Wednesday when they went down to the Grizzlies. CJ McCollum had 42 points on 16-for-25 shooting, but it wasn’t enough to get his side over the line.
The loss left Portland’s record at 46-29, which gives them a 2.5 game buffer over fourth place. They need to keep winning to hold onto the third seed, and on Friday they will face a Clippers side desperate for a victory.
Los Angeles sit in ninth place in the west and are now just a solitary game behind Utah. They have won three games in a row to keep their playoff chances alive, the latest of which was a 111-99 victory over Phoenix.
Three keys to the game
Does the rest help or hinder Lillard? – Damian Lillard has been playing incredible basketball of late but sat out the Blazers loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday because of the birth of his son. The loss reflected his importance to the team, and he will slot straight back into the starting lineup. Whether the rest helps or hinders, his form will have a huge outcome on the game.
Points in the paint – The Clippers play a game style which results in a lot of points in the paint. They score 51.5 points in this way per game, which is good enough for third in the league. Portland, however, have boasted a great interior defense this season, and allow just 42.1 points in the paint per game – the fifth least in the league.
Which McCollum shows up? – McCollum averages 23.4 points in his last five games, slightly above his season average. His individual points totals in these games, however, read 42, 7, 34, 26, 8. He has been all or nothing of late, and his performance will be vital in the Trail Blazers quest for victory.
Matchup to watch
Lou Williams vs Damian Lillard – Williams has had the best season of his career in 2017/18 and can consider himself unlucky to have missed out on an All-Star spot. The Clippers’ guard is averaging 22.7 points per game, over four points more than his second-best season, and 5.4 assists, over one whole assist better than any other season in his career. Lillard hasn’t shown the same improvement this year, but he hasn’t needed to; he was already a star in the game. This season he is putting up 26.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.1 steals, and is the primary reason for the Blazers’ late-season charge into the third seed.
Portland Trail Blazers predicted starting lineup
PG – Damian Lillard | SG – CJ McCollum | SF – Evan Turner | PF – Al-Farouq Aminu | C – Jusuf Nurkic
Los Angeles Clippers predicted starting lineup
PG – Austin Rivers | SG – Tyrone Wallace | SF – Wesley Johnson | PF – Tobias Harris | C – DeAndre Jordan
Lillard and McCollum have proven difficult for the Clippers to stop in the three games between the two sides so far this season. They combined for 48 points in the first game, and 44 in each of the second two, with Lillard having scored at least 23 points in all three matchups.
Williams went 5-for-26 from the floor in the second game between these sides this season but recovered to score 30 points in just 31 minutes in their most recent contest.
Portland have been given a six-point handicap in this game, and they should be able to cover it. The Clippers are in good form and are making a legitimate charge for the playoffs, but the Blazers have proven that their hot streak is more than just a good patch of form. They are a genuinely good side and will take care of the Clippers by over six points.
This will be a tight game early, with the Clippers coming out hard in their late-season attempt to steal a playoff spot. Williams will put up 25+ points and Jordan will pull down over 15 rebounds, but they won’t be good enough to overcome the Blazers.
McCollum needs to contribute and not have one of his off nights, but even if he has a bad game, Lillard’s presence will be enough to drag Portland over the line. They’ll run out 110-102 winners at home.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tip-off is at 10:30pm ET.