NBA Playoff Series Preview: (4) L.A. Clippers vs. (5) Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard may hav been snubbed of an All-Star selection but his Blazers claimed the No. 5 seed in the first round.
Damian Lillard may hav been snubbed of an All-Star selection but his Blazers claimed the No. 5 seed in the first round.

(4) LAC vs (5) POR

Opening Game: Sunday, April 17 at 10:30 PM
Series Price: LAC -347, POR +282
Game One Spread: LAC -8
Game One Total: 207.5

Betting odds c/o Bookmaker

The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the surprise teams of the 2015-16 season, but can that story continue to be written? Can the Trail Blazers pull a (slight) upset of the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2016 playoffs? NBA oddsmakers at Bookmaker favor the Clippers rather heavily, setting the series price for the Clips at -347. Game 1 odds also favor the Clips by eight points.

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But the Blazers cannot be written off. It is a team with a tough backcourt featuring possibly the NBA’s Most Improved player in C.J. McCollum. McCollum averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this year for the Blazers, starting next to All-Star snub Damian Lillard. Lillard was good for 25.1 points, 6.8 assists and four rebounds per game. The Blazers had no trouble scoring the ball this year, averaging 105.1 points per game as a team while connecting on 10.5 made threes per game as a team. Portland shot the three ball at a 37 percent clip this season while also shooting 45 percent from the floor as a team. It is a dangerous club that can score the ball.

As to whether the Blazers have enough muscle on the interior to slow the likes of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin is another matter. Portland is mortally weak at the 4/5 spots on defense, and Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis are all going to have to step up to the challenge in this series. The Clippers are equal as potent offensively, but the fact that L.A. can distribute its scoring more evenly does make them a more dangerous team in this series. It is just that Chris Paul and the Clippers have a way of disappointing when the postseason comes.

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The Clippers finished 53-29 this season despite playing the majority of the second half without Griffin. He broke his hand punching a trainer and then had to sit out for a suspension once he returned to full health. Griffin is still the most transcendental talent on the Clippers, and he led the team in scoring this year with 21.4 points per game, to go with 8.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. Chris Paul averaged ad double-double with 19 points and 10 assists. J.J. Redick is having a career year in his own right, averaging 16.3 points per game while having led the league in three-point percentage (47.5 percent).

The Clips are a team with plenty of weapons, and this series should be closer than Vegas is giving it credit for. The Blazers are a surprise team, but by no means a bad one. They are just a team in progress that is still lacking some key components before it can take the next level towards contention. The point may be that the Clippers are already at that point, and many take this to be one of the more lopsided 4/5 matchups in recent times. That is a fallacy. The Blazers should be able to push the Clippers to the brink, if only because few teams found a way to counter Portland’s backcourt and the Clippers defensive strengths are not necessarily best suited in that regard either.

The Clippers depth should prove to be its saving grace in this series. As it wears on and Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and all the main cogs tire out, the Clips will still be able to rally around the hot hands of J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. Simply because the Clips are a team with more weapons, they will prevail in six or seven games.

Bottom Line: Clippers in 7

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