The Clippers are currently 2-2 in the restarted season, coming off a decisive win over the Dallas Mavericks that was a lot closer than the final score made it appear. Next up are the Portland Trailblazers, who entered the bubble just outside of the playoffs, but have stormed their way to within half a game behind the Memphis Grizzlies—the same Grizzlies who haven’t won a game yet since the restart. The Blazers seem primed to capture the 8th seed, and are very hot. Without further ado: your Clippers vs Trailblazers game preview.

Game Information:

Where: ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL

When: Saturday, August 8th at 10am PT

How to Watch: TNT, Fox Sports Prime Ticket

Clippers’ Starters: Patrick Beverley (probable – calf) – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Marcus Morris Sr. – Ivica Zubac

Blazers’ Starters: Damian Lillard – CJ McCollum – Carmelo Anthony  – Zach Collins – Jusuf Nurkić

Clippers’ Injuries: Montrezl Harrell OUT (personal); Patrick Beverley TBD – Doc Rivers may opt to sit him again as a precaution)

Blazers’ Injuries: Rodney Hood OUT (injury), Trevor Ariza OUT (not in bubble), Caleb Swanigan OUT (not in bubble), Jaylen Adams (day-to-day)

The Big Picture:

After looking pretty awful against the Suns, the Clippers turned things around in a big way against the Mavericks, holding the NBA’s best offense to below their season averages in points, FG%, 3P%, and FT attempts, while putting up 126 points of their own on 54% shooting while going 45% from deep. It was an effortless game, and for once all of the work wasn’t done by the Clippers’ two superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, as they got double digit scoring from Marcus Morris Sr., JaMychal Green, and yet another superb outing from Ivica Zubac.

I would be remiss not to call out Zubac here in advance of this Blazers game. That’s two straight games where he’s  gone absolutely nuclear. He didn’t miss on Thursday night, tying a Clipper franchise record of makes without a miss, going 10 of 10 for the night. Against a Blazers team that has gotten one of the better and more physical bigs in the game back in Jusuf Nurkić, the Clippers will need size tomorrow night. Zubac proving that he can be relied upon in big games (let’s not dwell on his one mistake people) against strong opponents is going to be paramount for the playoffs, and Nurkić is another perfect test for our young center. If things go south, the Clippers may have to rely on Joahkim Noah. Patrick Patterson or JaMychal Green are great floor-spreading options, but lack the length to deal with a skilled giant like Nurkić. Fan favorite Montrezl Harrell would be especially helpful, as he’d create plenty of matchup problems for the Blazers. (Our thoughts are with you Trezz!)

With the Blazers, as usual, it’ll be all about keeping track of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The Clippers love to run teams off the 3-point line, have the help hang back, and try to get them to shoot mid-range shots. Unfortunately, McCollum is very, very comfortable in this area (8.3 mid-range attempts at 47% efficiency). However, this is probably a good strategy against Lillard, who’s actually mortal from the mid-range, but only if you can keep him contained—easier said than done. His insane shooting from outside, quick dribble, amazing footwork, and absolute cold-bloodedness make him a nightmare. With a lot of great perimeter guards, especially if Patrick Beverley (calf) can suit up, the Clippers should be okay. But if Dame gets anyone else on switches, the Clippers could be in trouble.

Ultimately, the Clippers are a good matchup against the Blazers. So long as they’re locked in like they were against Dallas, they should have a good chance at winning.

The Antagonist:

The Blazers have been an underwhelming team all season, but it’s almost entirely due to injuries. Before the season started they lost starting center Nurkić, and then only 3 games into the season starting power forward Zach Collins was sidelined. There didn’t seem to be much hope of them making the playoffs, but with the extra time provided by the season shutdown, everyone’s finally healthy. Carmelo Anthony, signed after much debate about his ability to win games, has been a pleasant surprise and has done well in a supporting scoring role. Hassan Whiteside had some huge games this season, but also some real stinkers, and focus (as usual) seems to be an issue. CJ McCollum has been more or less the same guy he’s always been. And as mentioned, Damian Lillard has been absolutely dynamite, with career highs in scoring, assists, and FG%. While they’ve gotten back their two starting bigs, the Blazers are also without key shooter Rodney Hood (injury), and key defensive wing Trevor Ariza (out of the bubble).

But if I’m being completely honest, with their lack of TV coverage this year, I haven’t watched them as much as I had in prior years. So I called on a friend, Sagar Trika (@BlazersBySagar) of earlybirdrights.com (@earlybirdrights), who is the biggest Blazers fan I know, and posed 5 questions for him:

Now that Jusuf Nurkić and Zach Collins are back, how have the Blazers looked so far, in comparison to the rest of the season?

ST: With Collins and Nurkić back, the Blazers have looked a lot more balanced. Prior to the season stoppage, the roster was pretty undersized. The trade with Sacramento to acquire Trevor Ariza certainly helped with that, but it was still a relatively undersized roster. Their respective returns from injury have helped that a lot

What’s the biggest dynamic change that the returning players have brought with them?

ST: The biggest question coming into the bubble was what the starting lineup would be, given Collins was a starter when he went down early in the season and Nurkić was the starter last season. The concern was that relegating Hassan Whiteside to a bench role would result in him becoming disengaged, given his past history in Miami prior to this season. There was some thought that maybe both Nurkić and Whiteside would start together, moving Carmelo Anthony to the small forward position and Collins to a bench role. Instead, the team has chosen to start Collins and Nurkić together, with Anthony moving out of the power forward role he had held prior to the season stoppage. That frontcourt rotation with Anthony, Collins, Nurkić, Whiteside, Gary Trent Jr. at times, and even Mario Hezonja on occasion was the biggest changing dynamic.

What are your expectations for the Blazers in the restarted season, given their remaining schedule?

ST: Given the team’s remaining schedule (Denver, L.A. Clippers, Philadelphia, Dallas, Brooklyn), I’m expecting at least involvement in the play-in “tournament.” I think there’s a decent chance they could even get the No. 8 seed in that play-in tournament, given Memphis’s free-fall and difficult upcoming schedule, but that’s more of a hope than an expectation.

What do you think is Portland’s biggest advantage against the Clippers?

ST: Assuming Montrezl Harrell isn’t available for the game, the most obvious advantage Portland has against the Clippers is size down low. The frontcourt trio of Collins, Nurkić, and Whiteside should be able to do pretty well against what feels like a relatively small team without much tall depth at the power forward and center positions. I would expect Portland to try and exploit that early and often, much like they did against Houston yesterday.

What are you most worried about when facing the Clippers?

ST: I think the biggest threat the Clippers pose is large wings who can create their own shots, in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. This iteration of the Trail Blazers doesn’t have anybody large enough to defend either of those guys. Gary Trent Jr. has been solid on defense this season, especially during his bubble break-out, but he’s undersized compared to Leonard and George, which worries me. Anthony has had his moments defensively, too, including forcing a couple key stops down the stretch against Houston, but I’m not confident in his ability to defend either of the Clippers’ star wings the entire game. Having Ariza in the bubble and available to play would help with that at least a little bit, but that’s still a major area of concern (and one that’s already been exploited once in the bubble).

Thank you Sagar!

Other Notes:

  • Morris catching fire: In addition to Zubac having huge games against the Suns and Mavericks, Marcus Morris contributed very nice efforts as well. Can he keep this streak going? He’s been a shockingly cold shooter for the Clippers, given the high level of scoring aptitude he was showing in New York. We’ve always assumed he’d finally come into shape, so maybe we’re seeing it. Unlike Zubac, this isn’t a matter of unlocking potential and finding confidence, it’s just a rhythm and fit thing. This could be huge for the Clippers heading into the playoffs.
  • Playoff Seeding: It’s hard to say that too many of these remaining games matter. With Denver losing against Portland, the Clippers are most likely going to end up the 2-seed unless they intentionally lose games. And their opponent is most likely going to be the Dallas Mavericks, who are all but locked into the 7th seed. The team most likely at the 6th seed are the floundering Utah Jazz, who have looked significantly less potent without Bojan Bogdanović, who’s out for the season after wrist surgery. So even if the Clippers somehow find themselves facing the Jazz in the playoffs, it doesn’t really change the game plan. This is all to say that the Clippers probably aren’t viewing any of these bubble games as must-wins, so we can expect to see Doc experimenting with different lineups and different schemes (on both ends of the court) and really just trying to get his guys in rhythm for when the games really count.
  • Kawhi might rest: Now, Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) had a great thought. He noted on Twitter:

“It’s gonna be interesting to see if the Clippers ‘throw’ the game on Saturday against the Blazers. Kawhi is going to sit in one of the back-to-backs. Do you sit him against Portland and let them get a win as they try to get the 8-seed?”


I could possibly see a scenario where the Clippers want the Blazers to get the 8th seed, in order to give the Lakers, their seemingly inevitable Western Conference Finals opponents, a tougher path. If Kawhi’s going to sit out one of these back-to-back games, this would be the one. It’s also the harder game of the two, so that’s a factor as well. Anyway, it’s something to think about.

After you read this Clippers – Trailblazers game preview, go check out Cole Huff’s article on Paul George, and listen to the new episode of TLTJTP!

213Hoops is an independently owned and operated L.A. Clippers blog by Clippers fans, for Clippers fans. If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. Subscriptions start at $1 a month and support from readers like you goes a long way towards helping us keep 213Hoops sustainable, growing, and thriving.

Erik Olsgaard

Erik Olsgaard

Erik has been a fan of the Clippers since 2004 and a member of the Clippers blogging community since 2009. He took a brief hiatus from writing, but now he's back with 213 Hoops, to provide an elder millennial's perspective on all things Clippers. You can always count on Erik to get to the truth of the matter by marrying up stats with the eye-test.

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