In a marquee showdown at the Staples Center, the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers meet for an early season clash between two of the best in the Western Conference. According to Charles Barkley, the Trail Blazers are going to take the conference by surprise and reach the NBA Finals.
Barkley allegedly put $100,000 on the Trail Blazers to win the Western Conference and go to the final round of the playoffs. He is well-known for being a big gambler and the bet probably wasn’t air money for TV. People thought Barkley was nuts, but after their performance against the LA Lakers, is it so nuts?
The Trail Blazers beat the Lakers by a score of 115-107 to show that they can bang with the big boys. Let’s not go too crazy, though. Let’s keep in mind that the Lakers were playing on a back-to-back with an injured Lebron James and Anthony Davis.
Lebron went down the night before as his ankle continued to bother him. He toughed it out and played anyway, though probably should have sat it out and rested. Put the Trail Blazers and Lakers in a seven-game series together, and I don’t know if four games play out like that.
Having said that, the Trail Blazers are a very talented team, with a roster filled with depth. Damian Lillard gets the vast majority of the face-time on this team, but you can’t talk about the Trail Blazers without talking about Enes Kanter, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. I don’t think enough was made of Nurkic’s absence when he got injured last season.
He broke his leg in a scary incident under the net and was lost for the year. Replacing Nurkic wasn’t easy and his absence was clear right away. With a healthy Nurkic back, the Trail Blazers are in a much better position.
Portland is off to a 2-1 start to the season, having bounced back following a 120-100 loss versus the Jazz for a 128-126 win over the Rockets and 115-107 over the Lakers. They face another tricky challenge at the Staples Center on Wednesday and will be looking to complete the LA sweep in this one.
The Clippers hope to have Kawhi Leonard back after he sat out last night after being listed as day-to-day with a mouth laceration. He took a nasty elbow from Serge Ibaka against the Nuggets and has missed a couple of games. Leonard did not take part in the 124-73 embarrassment against the Mavericks.
His team came back nicely with a 124-101 win over the Timberwolves last night. Lou Williams led the Clippers in scoring with 20 points, while Paul George chipped in with 18 points. This is still a very dominant offensive team without Leonard on the floor. Head below for our free Trail Blazers vs. Clippers pick for December 30, 2020.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. LA Clippers NBA Betting Odds:
Trail Blazers vs. Clippers Prediction:
I don’t think the Clippers problem against the Mavericks was a lack of Kawhi Leonard. Surely his presence would have helped, but when you lose 124-73 that stems from an effort problem. Fortunately, the Clippers realized that and came back much stronger against the T-Wolves and scored 124 points, the same number they conceded versus the Mavs.
If you eliminate that garbage game, the Clippers have scored more than 120 points in both of their games. They opened the season with a 121-108 win over the Nuggets on Christmas Day. The Clippers scored an average of 116.3 points a game to lead the league in Leonard’s first season as a Clipper. The defense wasn’t as sharp as one would have hoped for with him on the roster, though.
The Clippers conceded an average of 109.9 points per game, which wasn’t enough to counter an elite scoring machine like the Lakers. The defense must be better this season or it will be another playoff exit for the Clippers. Thus far, they’ve allowed 110.5 points a game through three outings. The explosive Trail Blazers will undoubtedly put stress on the Clippers’ defense tonight. The Trail Blazers have a lot of options and have plenty of depth to use to their advantage.
Portland has netted an average of 114.3 points per game through three performances. They’ve scored at least 100 points in all three games. However, the Trail Blazers will have to improve on the 117.7 points conceded per contest. They gave up too many points a season ago, with 116.1 conceded for one of the worst marks in the Western Conference.
Only Minnesota and New Orleans gave up more points. In their most recent meeting on August 8, the Clippers’ offense was too much to contain for the Blazers, as they netted 122 points in a 122-117 win. I can see a similar game unfolding on Wednesday night at the Staples Center, with or without Kawhi suiting up to play. I will throw my support behind a wager on the OVER.