The Los Angeles Clippers have consistently been a playoff team for over a decade now. The problem is they have suffered multiple first round exits and have yet to appear in an NBA final. This Clippers team had an up and down year with a multitude of injuries, most notably to star forward Blake Griffin, and one positive outcome from the injuries is that everyone on the team contributed significant minutes at one point or another and that experience will likely prove valuable at one point during this playoff run. In game one the Clippers looked like the more balanced team as 10 players played at least 15 minutes and all but one player dressed for the game scored in the 115-95 Clipper win. Portland was not supposed to be in this situation after losing 4 starters in the offseason, however the one starter they kept (Damian Lillard) and emerging star C.J McCollum have taken care of the ball handling and scoring load while the rest of the roster does the dirty work. It will be up to some of Portland’s secondary players to perform better on both ends of the floor if they want to avoid going down 2-0 headed back to Portland for game 3.
Point guard Chris Paul was masterful in game one with 28 points, 11 assists, and 6 rebounds to lead his team. He hasn’t always played at the top of his game come playoff times and he needs to take advantage of this opportunity while this teams core is intact and he still has his youth and overall health. Griffin returned from injury and suspension to play the last 5 games of the regular season and was eased back into the lineup. After game one it became clear that he was in fact healthy and had gotten rid of the rust. He finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists. Most importantly he showed the highflying ability to dunk in traffic to erase any doubt about his health. Deandre Jordan had 18 points and 12 rebounds. To start the game the Clippers ran a lot of screens for J.J Redick and he got going early from the perimeter, opening the paint for his teammates, he finished with 17 points. Jamal Crawford chipped in with 13 points off the bench.
Portland will need to find some continuity on offense and give the playing time to whatever players give them the best chance to win. The backcourt is decided but deciding who plays the majority of the minutes next to them will decide if they have a chance to steal game 2. Lillard led the team in scoring with 21 points along with 8 assists. Al Faraq Aminu had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Gerald Henderson had 16 points off the bench. Don’t be surprised if Henderson or sharpshooter Allan Crabbe gets the start in game 2 in order to give the first unit more scoring. The team essentially plays without a post player so they will need to spread to court with shooters to open up lanes.
The Trailblazers are in the playoffs thanks in large part to their outstanding home record. If they are able to steal a win in game 2 they will be headed home with a chance to take a stranglehold on the series. The Clippers will need to be ready for anything as the Trailblazers backs are against the wall
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