Trail Blazers-Clippers Preview
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are emerging as a major one-two punch for the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Los Angeles Clippers are in the fifth season of their own with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Lillard and McCollum look to build on one of their best scoring displays of the season Monday night when the Trail Blazers visit the Clippers.
Lillard is the league's eighth-leading scorer at 25.4 points per game, while McCollum is 20th with a 20.4-point average that's a major increase from his 6.8 last season.
The duo was instrumental to Saturday's 108-96 win over the Lakers as Portland (7-10) won for the third time in four tries following a seven-game slide. McCollum scored the first nine points before finishing with 28 and hitting 12 of 20 from the floor, while Lillard had 29 points with four of his seven assists coming on baskets by his fellow guard.
“I think we all understand that C.J. is a guy that can run off a bunch of points at a time,” Lillard said. “At the start of the game, we saw him hit that first one and so I tried to just keep calling plays and in transition keep finding him.”
Paul and Griffin have shared a similar relationship for four-plus seasons as the backbone of the Clippers (9-8). Griffin's 25.1 points per game put him just behind Lillard, while Paul's averages – 17.3 points and 8.4 assists – are down but still solid.
Like their Portland counterparts, Griffin and Paul were vital to their team's last performance, Sunday's 107-99 win over Minnesota. Griffin scored 26 points with eight rebounds and eight assists, while Paul had 20 points and nine assists with four going to Griffin.
Los Angeles has won three of four games after losing seven of its prior nine. The Clippers shot 52.0 percent against the Timberwolves, their best performance since making 52.5 in their season-opening win at Sacramento.
“It's not always going to be pretty, but we have to pile up wins – especially in this Western Conference,” Paul said. “The team executed pretty well. First and foremost, we made shots.”
The Clippers had trouble doing that from 3-point range at Portland on Nov. 20, making just 7 of 24 while falling 102-91. Paul shot 4 of 14 from the floor while finishing with 11 points and eight assists while Griffin had 21 and seven with seven boards.
Paul averaged 30.5 points and 12.5 assists while Los Angeles took three of four meetings with the Trail Blazers last season.
Lillard has scored 18.0 points per game over the past five meetings with the Clippers. However, he had 27 in the most recent, while McCollum and Mason Plumlee added 18 each.
Los Angeles' J.J. Redick struggled in that meeting, scoring seven points while missing 9 of 12 field-goal attempts in his return from a three-game absence due to back spasms.
The guard had totaled 51 points on 20 of 47 from the floor over the two previous meetings with the Blazers. He's scored 38 in the last two games – both wins.
- Blake Griffin
- Chris Paul
- CJ McCollum
- Damian Lillard
- JJ Redick
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Mason Plumlee
- Portland Trail Blazers