LAC @ POR (Game 3)
Time: 9:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
Clippers lead series 2-0
The Portland Trail Blazers were not even expected to make the playoffs this year, but now that they have it seems like it is time to win a game. The L.A. Clippers took care of business on its homecourt and took a 2-0 edge in the Best of Seven series, but Portland now has a chance to make up some ground on its homecourt.
As the series shifts back to the Moda Center, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum hope to get some home cooking going and work their way back into this series. The Blazers had one of the league’s best home records over the homestretch of the regular season, and Portland averaged just 88 points per game over the first two games of the series. The Blazers shot just 36.8 percent from the field in games 1 and 2, and Portland’s lack of depth did indeed rear its ugly head.
The Clippers outscored Portland’s bench 43-10 in Game 2, but this was expected to be a problem when pitting one of the league’s deepest rotations against one of the thinnest. The Blazers have done a good job neutralizing the Clippers’ high-flying frontcourt, but with Jeff Green and Jamal Crawford going bonkers off the bench, it has not mattered much.
Lillard also has to do a better job defensively. Chris Paul is averaging 21.5 points and eight assists per game while keeping Lillard entirely under wraps in his own right. Lillard is just 6 of 14 from the field with Paul matching up on him while McCollum is 0 of 4. Considering the fact that Portland’s scoring is so concentrated in its backcourt, this means the Blazers are going to have to find ways to get its supporting cast more involved.
Portland trailed by just four points at the half in Game 2, but the Clippers outscored Portland 55-38 in the disastrous second half. The Blazers put four of five starters in double figures, but no player had more than 17 points in the game as Portland shot just 34 percent from the field. The Blazers bench was just 5 of 19 from the field while allowing the Clippers to shoot 17 of 33.
But Portland really does not have the horses to keep up in this race. The fact that the Blazers are back in Portland will help some, but it likely will not be enough to make a meaningful difference in this series. Not having the homecourt advantage was something of a death blow to Portland, especially given the fact that the team was so good at home and so mediocre on the road.
Portland compiled a 28-13 record at home, but won just 16 games this season on the road. That was bound to rear its head sooner or later for Portland. It also does not help that the disparity between the 4 and 5 seed was so great in this series: Portland finished the season with nine wins less than the Clippers, as the top-4 teams in the West had a good bit of separation this season from the “also-rans.”
Do not be mistaken, Portland is a superb team on its homecourt and the Blazers backcourt does play its best ball at home. Even so, with this game being a PICK between the two clubs, most bettors are wise to go with the Clippers who have thoroughly dominated this series thus far. Chris Paul may finally be shedding the label of “postseason bust,” as he is putting together a great playoff series against another elite point guard.