NBA Playoffs Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

16
Apr

Prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, it looked like it was going to be a race between the Spurs and the Clippers for the best bench. Well, the Spurs delivered, but it took an array of moves for the Clippers to finally settle on the guys who would ultimately help them get to the playoffs. A mid-season trade for Jeff Green is the biggest move that stands out. Green has become a major player for LA, but the rest of the bench hasn’t delivered in the way we had hoped.

But the Blazers managed to deliver way better than we hoped. They burst through on the backs of Damian Lillard and likely MIP CJ McCollum. After losing LaMarcus Aldridge, it seemed unlikely that they’d be a playoff team, let alone a five-seed. Their guards can score in bunches, but a weak front court rotation has been weakened even further by a Meyers Leonard injury, meaning that if the Blazers are going to continue to amaze, it’s going to have to come on the shoulders of guys like Noah Vonleh and Ed Davis.

Keys to the Series

Trail Blazers

  • Dominate the boards. That’s going to be hard to do against DeAndre Jordan, but if it’s going to happen, Ed Davis should be a big reason why. Giving the Clippers second chance shots is going to make this series even harder than it already will be.
  • Take the load off Lillard. Lillard has struggeled agianst the Clippers this season, but that’s not surprising when you consider he’s being guarded by Chris Paul. Other players are going to have to score so Lillard can be smart about his play.

Clippers

  • Utilize the bench. If they want to win past this series, they’re going to need relatively fresh players, especially since the Warriors should breeze through the Rockets. The Clippers need to build leads and then let the bench hold it.
  • Prevent the 3s. The Blazers are a high-volume, high-production three-point shooting team. But they only shot 29% from beyond the arc during the season series against the Clips. They need to keep the pressure on to put Portland away.

X-Factor

Blake Griffin

If you told me pre-season I’d have Blake Griffin listed here, I would’ve laughed the idea away. But coming back from injury as he is, it’s important for Blake to really find his rhythm early. If he isn’t playing at his full level, things will get much easier for the Blazers.

Prediction

Clippers in 5

The Clippers are simply too talented and too deep for this over-performing Blazers team to compete.

About the author: Alex Lowe

A former college athlete in a sport that no one cared about, Alex now spends most of his days being a furiously biased Bulls and Braves fan. When he's not busy with that, he still imagines his 5'7" self making an improbable rise to NBA stardom.