Czar’s End of Year Awards

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Gameday Dish: Clippers vs. Blazers

The Los Angeles Clippers come to the Rose Garden tonight to take on the Portland Trail Blazers. This will be their first real road game of the season, though technically Coach Vinny Del Negro’s guys were the visiting team when they beat their fellow Los Angeleans the Lakers last Friday.

Chris Paul and company are now 3-2 after besting the Spurs last night 106-84 at Staples. Blake Griffin had 22 points and 10 assists. DeAndre Jordan went for 20 and 11, while CP3 had 10 points and 12 dimes In the impressive victory.

The Clips are only 6-32 in their history at Portland, however they won last year at the Rose Garden, beating an Aldridge-less Blazers squad. 2009 #1 overall pick Blake Griffin has faced Portland seven times in his career and has put up a double-double in each contest, averaging 20 points and 13.7 boards.

The Clips’ Jamal Crawford, who played for Portland last season and opted out of his contract, is shooting 52.4% from the field and averaging 21.2 ppg. He shot a disappointing 38.4 % last season for the Blazers.

If the Clippers are going to be a team to be reckoned with in the Western Conference, they must play with consistency night in and night out. They need to put a five or six-game winning streak together and build on that to show they are maturing as a team and growing together.

The Blazers appear to be playing with a chip on their shoulder, determined to prove that they are a competitive team that is capable of earning the playoff spot that eluded them in the spring. The 2-2 Blazers last played on Monday night in Dallas. The Mavs smoked them 114-91, outscoring Portland 31-12 in the 4th quarter.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews each had 20 points in the defeat. Rookie Damian Lillard, the #6 overall pick in the draft, had a rough game, shooting 2 of 13 and dishing out only 5 assists, a season low. In his first three pro games, Lillard had scored at least 20 points and averaged 9 assists.

Coach Terry Stotts’ bench is averaging a league-worst 12.8 ppg. Portland will definitely need a stronger contribution from the reserves to be competitive tonight.

Tune in to TNT at 10:30 PM ET to watch the Clippers battle the Trail Blazers and to see whether the bloom is off the Rose Garden squad’s longstanding home-court dominance.

Czar’s Playoff Preview: Clippers vs. Spurs Game 1

The Los Angeles Clippers come to the Alamo City tonight to take on the #1-seeded Spurs. The Spurs finished the lockout-shortened season at 50-16, tied with the Bulls for best record in the NBA. 2012 Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich’s squad is on a 14-game winning streak, and they’ve had plenty of time to rest up since sweeping the Utah Jazz in the first round on May 7th.

On the other bench, the Clippers are tired and dinged-up thanks to a knock-em-down, seven-game first round series with the physical, bruising Grizzlies. The West’s 5th seed won on Sunday 82-72 in Memphis and advanced to the second round for only the third time in franchise history.

2nd-year All-Star Blake Griffin played only two minutes in the 4th quarter in the Game 7 victory, partly because he’s been hobbled with a sprained left knee. If tonight’s 48 were a regular season game Griffin would definitely be sitting out, but it’s the do-or-die postseason and LA will need his 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg and athletic energy to compete against the disciplined depth of the Spurs.

5X All-Star PG Chris Paul, who finished third in the MVP balloting this year, is also less than 100% as he’s nursing a strained right hip flexor. 1st-year Clip Paul went for 19 and 9 on Sunday and was the key to the success of the Clips this season. He can dominate both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor and has the best handle in the league. The Wake Forest product has led the league in steals four times including this season. Paul’s matchup with 4X All-Star PG Tony Parker (who finished 5th in MVP voting this year) and his ability to slow down the zooming Frenchman will be critical for LA to have a chance in this series.

LA’s Vinny Del Negro had his best W-L % this year as a head coach, .606, and is in the second round for the first time. Del Negro endured loads of criticism, second-guessing and negative rumors during the year, but toughed it out and has ClipperLand giddy with their first round success. Interestingly, the pride of Springfield, MA once suited up as a Spur for Gregg Popovich in Pop’s first two years in San Antonio.

These two sides played three times this regular season, twice in Texas and once at Staples. The Spurs came out on top on December 28th at home 115-90 and on February 18th in SoCal 103-100 in OT. Their final meeting was on March 9th in San Antonio, and the Clippers prevailed 120-108. Paul had 36 points, 11 dimes and 4 steals in that win, although his lead-guard rival Parker was out with a sore thigh. Regardless, that victory should give the long-suffering Clipper fan base some hope when the Game 1 tips off.

Tune in tonight at 9:30 PM ET to watch the 4-banner Spurs take on the upstart Clippers on TNT.

Czar’s 2011-12 Season Preview

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Czar’s End of Year Awards: Rookie of the Year

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