Rip City Betting: Los Angeles Clippers Travel To Portland to Face Hot Trail Blazers

Wesley-Matthews-blazersLA Clippers at Portland
Time: 10:35 PM ET, Dec 26, 2013
Spread: POR -4.5
M/L: POR -190; LAC +165
Total: 212

Betting Odds courtesy of Bovada

Zach Lowe of Grantland cited numerous reasons why the 23-5 Portland Trail Blazers are not as good as its 23-5 record would indicate, most significantly citing defensive issues that Lowe believes keeps the Blazers from being true top-shelf contenders. The Blazers rank 22nd in the NBA in points allowed (102.1) and are not particularly good at getting stops. Moreover, the team is 10-1 in games that have been within three points at any point within the last three minutes of the game.

The lack of sustainability of that clutch play is just another reason Lowe believes the Blazers don’t have the “D” to be champions. Those defensive issues may be exposed tonight against the L.A. Clippers, though Chris Paul and company did play last night on Christmas day. The home team Blazers are favored by 4.5-points by NBA oddsmakers.

But what the team has lacked defensively it has compensated for by having the NBA’s highest scoring offense (108.4 points per game). Essentially replacing J.J. Hickson with Robin Lopez in the starting lineup this season has strengthened the defense without hindering the offense at all, despite Lopez’ limited offensive skill set.

Why have the Blazers been so good offensively?

Several reasons:

1) LaMarcus Aldridge is having a career season and seems to have a renewed optimism this season. His 23.1 points per game lead the team.

2) Damian Lillard has continued to grow in his sophomore season and is posting a PER of 20.6 while averaging 21.5 points per game.

3) The Blazers have a trio of underrated shooters that have been on fire (Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum and 6th man Mo Williams).

Tonight’s key matchup will be at the 1-spot. Lillard will have a chance to showcase his skills against the league’s best point guard Chris Paul. Both should be able to give one another fits defensively, notwithstanding that both Paul and Lillard are good defenders. Paul took a strong offensive initiative last night in the Clippers loss to Golden State, particularly after Blake Griffin was ejected for picking up a second technical foul.

Paul spent most of the night against bigger defenders, Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala, and he won’t have to contend with that issue tonight, unless Portland decides to stick Batum on Paul in stretches. Nicolas Batum is an excellent lockdown perimeter defender, and the trend of putting strong wing defenders on the opposing team’s primary ball handler is a strategy that has picked up steam in recent years.

LAC Trends: 5-1 ATS in last 6 when opponent scores 100 or more in previous game; 5-1 ATS in last 6 overall; 4-1 ATS in last 5 after scoring 100 or more in previous game.

POR Trends: 0-4 ATS in last 4 overall; 6-0 ATS in last 6 Thursday games; OVER 5-0 in last 5 after allowing 100 or more in previous game.

Head-to-head: OVER 9-2-2 in last 13 in Portland; Clippers 2-5 ATS in last 7 in Portland.

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