Streaking Clippers host Trail Blazers
LOS ANGELES — Off to a franchise-best 6-1 start after mauling the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Clippers will try to continue their strong play when the host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
Defense has been the story for the Clippers, who share top billing in the Western Conference with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Los Angeles is riding a three-game winning streak since the Clippers dropped their only game, an 85-83 defeat vs. the Thunder on Nov. 2.
The Clippers lead the NBA in scoring defense at 89.4 points per game while producing 104.3, a differential of 14.9. They have limited opponents to 40 percent shooting.
“I think, when you start off the season, you always wonder what your team identity is going to be. And, when you get a few games under your belt, you start to see that,” said Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who scored 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting, hitting all five of his 3-pointers in only three quarters, in a dominant 114-82 romp over the Pistons on Monday night at Staples Center. Paul also had eight assists and six rebounds.
“I think now our team is excited about our defense. We get excited about stopping teams and trying to keep them under a certain number. I think that is something that can be contagious all season long,” said Paul, who led the NBA with 3.29 steals per game heading into Wednesday.
Against the Trail Blazers, the Clippers have won four straight and seven of their last nine regular-season meetings, including a 114-106 decision on Oct. 27. The Trail Blazers, though, bounced the Clippers from the first round of the playoffs last season after injuries eliminated Paul and Blake Griffin from the series.
Portland, the only team to top 100 points against the Clippers this season, is playing the second game of a back-to-back after a 124-121 win over Phoenix on Tuesday night. Damian Lillard scored 38 points, 22 in the final quarter. Backcourt mate C.J. McCollum added 33 as the Trail Blazers won their third in a row.
“Dame was clutch,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “He made his free throws. We were struggling without him. Seemed like he made every big play he had to.”
It was the first time McCollum has topped 30 points in consecutive games in his career.
Portland lost forward Al-Farouq Aminu (calf) in the first quarter of the contest against Phoenix. His status for the Clippers' game is unknown.
The Trail Blazers have relied on their offense for wins to overcome a struggling defense. The Blazers were allowing 109.3 points per game, which ranked 25th in the league, entering the contest against Phoenix. Portland was averaging 108.3 points.
However, the Trail Blazers have been one of the league's best from long distance, averaging 11.3 3-pointers before Tuesday.
They will be pressed to duplicate those numbers against the Clippers, who have limited the opposition to seven 3-pointers a game in their seven outings.