The Portland Trail Blazers are going to need to make some significant changes in order to have a shot at stealing Game 2 on Wednesday night. They need to figure out how to fight off the Los Angeles Clippers’ aggressive traps on pick-and-rolls, which are forcing the ball out of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum’s hands. They also need to figure out how to dominate the boards, which was supposed to be a major advantage for them coming into this series. On Sunday night, the Clippers out-rebounded the Blazers 57-50. If Portland can’t figure out a solution to both of these problems, there is little hope for them winning this series.
Also, the Blazers need to figure out how to contain Blake Griffin and Chris Paul better than they did in Game 1. Griffin over-matched Al-Farouq Aminu and just about every defender the Blazers threw his way. Any hopes that Griffin would be hindered by his injury are gone after he threw down some highlight dunks in Game 1, so the Blazers need to find a way to slow him down, even if that means playing Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis together.
Paul was also a handful for Lillard and McCollum and it’s not clear how the Blazers can slow him down. Putting a longer defender like Allen Crabbe on him may help, but Paul was seemingly unstoppable on Sunday night regardless of who was guarding him. Lillard admitted after the game that the Blazers try to prevent opponents from shooting at the rim and from the three-point line, funneling them toward mid-range jumpers. However, Paul thrives from that distance and will likely keep torching the Blazers if they keep giving him those shots.
The Blazers also have to account for DeAndre Jordan, but there isn’t anyone on their roster who can keep him off the boards completely and he will continue being a nuisance in the lane defensively. Blazers coach Terry Stotts tried the hack-a-Jordan strategy, but it did little to help Portland in Game 1. Jordan has consistently hurt the Blazers this season and it’s not clear that Portland has the personnel to slow him down for an entire game.
The biggest vulnerability the Clippers seem to have at this point is their bench, which is better than last year’s second-unit, but is still inconsistent. Doc Rivers went extended periods with all-bench lineups, which the Blazers need to exploit moving forward. The Blazers probably can’t overcome the Clippers’ best lineups consistently, but they can make up ground when Rivers put his all-bench lineups on the floor.
Prediction: The Clippers’ defense continues to smother Lillard and McCollum and L.A. wins Game 2.
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