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 End of Year Awards: Most Improved

[nba-video vid=channels/tnt_overtime/2011/03/30/]

Fratello Telestrator: Andre Miller’s Alley-Oop

[nba-video vid=channels/tnt_overtime/2011/01/28/]

Gameday Dish: Celtics at Blazers

The Boston Celtics, owners of the NBA’s second best record at 34-10, come to The Rose Garden in Portland tonight to take on coach Nate McMillan’s banged-up Blazers. With starters Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby out of the lineup already with serious knee troubles, Portland is hoping that fifth-year PF LaMarcus Aldridge, their active leading scorer and rebounder, will be ready come tip-off against Doc Rivers’ formidable front line.

Aldridge had an MRI on his right hip two days ago after hurting himself in the Blazers’ home loss to Sacramento on Monday night, 96-81. The rare home loss ended Portland’s season-high five-game win streak. Even with the defeat, Portland is an impressive 16-6 on their home floor. At 25-21, the Blazers currently sit 8th in the Western Conference.

A win tonight would carry added importance because six of their next eight contests are on the road and the two home games in this stretch are against the NBA elite – San Antonio Spurs (best record in the league) and Chicago Bulls (fifth-best record in NBA).

The Celtics have had their share of injury woes as well in the 2010-11 campaign. The veteran bigs O’Neal, Jermaine and Shaquille are currently sidelined with an
assortment of aches and dings that come with a
combined 34 years of NBA low-post, trench work
experience. However, in the C’s last game, a Tuesday night home win over the spiraling Cavaliers, starting center Kendrick Perkins made his season debut.

Perk last wore the green and white in game 6 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles, when he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament. In his first game back, Perkins came off the bench to spell current starting 5-man, Turkish rookie Semih Erden. KP played 18 minutes and had seven points, six boards and three dimes after receiving a lengthy standing ovation from the Garden gathered grateful.

A great matchup to focus on tonight is the point guard duel featuring Portland’s 12th year, wily vet Andre Miller and the dynamic Celtic lead guard Rajon Rondo. Former Kentucky Wildcat Rondo leads the NBA in assists at 12.9 and is second in steals at 2.45. In the Blazers’ loss on December 1st in Beantown, Miller had 20 and 6, while the Celtic QB had 10 and 10.  Also in that game, the longest-tenured Celtic and 2010 3-point Champion Paul Pierce scored a game-high 28 points.

Portland is known as the ‘greenest’ major city in the country. Maybe that’s why the Celtics have been so successful there recently. Boston has won their single regular season visit to Rip City in 7 of the last 10 years, including last year’s 96-76 blowout. Tune in tonight at 10:30 PM ET on TNT as the eastern-most franchise in the NBA visits the league’s western-most franchise.

Czar Asks You

The Portland Trail Blazers are second in the league in free-throw percentage behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their clutch shooting ability from the line translated into wins this week.

In Tuesday’s 106-99 win over the Suns, the Blaze went a remarkable 32 of 33 from the foul line, finishing with 17 straight freebies in the fourth quarter. LaMarcus Aldridge sank 10 consecutive free throws in the game while Roy went 9 for 9.

Miller was sidelined against the Suns due to a one-game suspension following an altercation with Blake Griffin. But he was on a roll from the line prior to the miss, knocking down over 30 consecutive free throws, 9 of which helped cement a win over the Clips to snap a 6-game losing streak.

Miller doesn’t get to the line quite as often as Roy and Aldridge, but when he does he hits the mark. Ranked 9th and 10th overall respectively, guards Brandon Roy and Andre Miller lead their team in FT%.

All three guys will get a chance to hit some more foul shots tonight when they host the Magic at the Rose Garden.

Will Miller be able to keep his streak alive? Who will finish the season with the highest FT% – Miller or Roy?