Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/25/13
No rest for the weary The Portland Trail Blazers finally broke their six-game losing streak with a win against the Indiana Pacers, but things aren’t getting any easier. Matchup: Portland (21-21) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (32-13) Venue: Rose Garden Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 The Los Angeles Clippers, one of the top teams in the entire NBA, are set to begin a home-and-home series against the Blazers beginning Saturday night at the Rose Garden. The Trail Blazers are set to take on the Clippers for the second time this season. (Photo: Don Ryan/AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up The Blazers and the Clippers have faced off once already this season, and it wasn’t pretty for fans in Rip City. A 13-point loss at home came in the midst of a 1-5, and it was clear that these teams were on different levels. In what has become typical at this point in the year, Portland fell behind early. L.A. took a 21-point lead into halftime, and while the Blazers made it interesting with a third big quarter, it just wasn’t enough to combat the great start by the Clippers. At this point in the season, both teams are a little bit better than most expected. We all knew that Los Angeles would be a top-4 team out West, but the fact that they’re challenging the Oklahoma City Thunder for top honors is an impressive feat. Portland, on the other hand, is nowhere near the top of the conference, but they are legitimate candidates for a spot in the postseason, which is more than some anticipated. What to Watch: Portland The Blazers played one of their best defensive games of the season Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers, and they’re going to need a similar performance if they hope to take down the Clippers. Portland held Indiana to just 80 points on 37.5 percent shooting. Despite completing just 18.2 percent of their three-point attempts, the Blazers won by 20 points, and it had everything to do with the defensive effort that they put forth. But let’s get one thing straight right now: the Clippers are a much better offensive team than the Pacers. Los Angeles is the seventh-highest scoring team in the league, while Indiana is dead last. The Blazers need to take the confidence they gained against the Pacers and turn it into production against a team who can score all up and down their roster. What to Watch: Los Angeles The Clippers are coming off a shocking loss to one of the Western Conference’s worst teams. They lost to the Phoenix Suns by five points Thursday night, and it was largely due to the fact that they were without their superstar point guard, Chris Paul. With Paul out of the lineup, this team missed their offensive floor general, but they also missed a solid defensive presence. He is the kind of point guard who can shut down anyone his size in the league, and his absence was a big reason for Goran Dragic’s 24-point, 5-reboun, 8-assist performance. Lillard and Stotts will combine for one exciting brand of basketball this season. Photo Getty Images This team is as deep as it gets in the NBA, but they need their star player to be successful. If Paul is out against Portland, look for Eric Bledsoe to get the start. Key Matchup If you think Chris Paul is too good to pay attention to Damian Lillard, think again. The 27-year-old All-Star gave the Trail Blazers’ rookie a ringing endorsement the last time these two met. According to Sean Meagher of The Oregonian, Paul said after the game, “Portland better hold onto [Lillard] because they definitely got a prized possession for the future.” The best part about that quote is that Lillard didn’t even play his best game. He had 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting to go along with four assists. He did have three steals, but credit that more to a sloppy third quarter by the Clippers. Paul is a great defender, and as long as he plays, he’s going to challenge Lillard from start to finish. However, if Bledsoe is in because Paul is unable to play, Lillard should look to take over, and he’ll show the Clippers organization just how prized a possession he truly is. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Sasha Pavlovic Los Angeles: DAY-TO-DAY—Chris Paul Prediction The Blazers got a much-needed win Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers, but that momentum is going to be tough to carry forward is the Clippers are on top of their game. Blazers 93 – Clippers 103 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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