Clippers-Trail Blazers Preview

The Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers are on a roll

behind Blake Griffin.

The Portland Trail Blazers are just seeking back-to-back wins

for the first time in nearly a month, but are again likely without

their big man.

Griffin and the Clippers look to capitalize on another expected

absence from LaMarcus Aldridge on Thursday night when they try to

beat the Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden for the first time in

over three years.

Los Angeles (18-9) leads the Pacific by two games on the rival

Los Angeles Lakers, and has won nine of 12 while averaging 100.5

points – 103.4 in the victories.

Griffin is a big part of the Clippers’ success, leading them

with 21.2 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. The All-Star forward

has hit his averages over the last 12 games and looking to build on

his 23 points and 15 boards that spurred a 102-84 rout of

Washington on Wednesday.

Los Angeles hasn’t been able to capitalize on some strong

performances from Griffin in Portland (16-14). He’s averaging 19.7

points and 15.0 rebounds in three visits to the Rose Garden, but

they’ve all ended in Clippers defeats. Their losing streak there is

five games dating to a 120-112 double-overtime win on Dec. 12,

2008.

The Clippers lost 105-97 there Jan. 10 despite 18 points and 12

boards from Griffin.

Griffin, though, could have his way in the low post since

Aldridge is expected to be out again with a sprained left ankle.

The forward leads Portland with averages of 22.6 points and 8.3

rebounds, and could be back Saturday versus Atlanta.

Until then, the Trail Blazers will try to cope and win

back-to-back contests for the first time since Jan. 23-24. They did

well without the All-Star on Wednesday, getting 24 points from

forward Gerald Wallace and two key free throws from Jamal Crawford

with 44 seconds to play to give Portland a 93-91 victory at Golden

State.

“A win like this can catapult us,” said Crawford, who had 14

points. “We were the aggressors and usually the aggressors

win.”

Crawford and Wallace average 14.3 and 14.2 points, respectively,

and will likely be relied upon again. Wallace has totaled 49 points

in two games, and made 8 of 12 field goals to finish with 20 points

against the Clippers on Jan. 10.

Crawford wasn’t as productive in that victory, being held to

nine after averaging 27.0 over his previous three games against

them.

Los Angeles’ Caron Butler, however, is averaging 23.5 points and

8.0 boards over his last four games at Portland, scoring 20 there

last month. The forward has totaled 44 points and 13 boards in his

last two contests.

More contributions from Randy Foye could help the Clippers’ end

their skid at the Rose Garden. The guard scored all 10 of his

points in the fourth quarter Wednesday against his former team,

reaching double digits for the fourth time in five games.

“Foye was outstanding, and we’re going to need that from him,”

guard Chris Paul said. “I’ve known him for years and I used to play

against him when he was in Minnesota. Foye was one of those guys

who used to give us fits because he’s such a good player. I think

at times, he’s better than he thinks he is. So we just need him to

keep getting his confidence.”