Overplayed Clippers take on the deep Blazers
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Depth is a concern for the Los Angeles Clippers, but it is a decided strength of the Portland Trail Blazers, who face the Clippers Thursday night at Moda Center.
The Clippers (3-0) started the season with only four guards on their 15-man roster, and the gamble backfired when starting point guard Milos Teodosic went down with plantar fasciitis of the left foot. The 6-foot-5 Serbian is out indefinitely.
The shortage was a factor as coach Doc Rivers was pressed to play all of his starters -- guards Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverley, center DeAndre Jordan and forwards Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari -- big minutes in a 102-84 victory over Utah on Tuesday night.
"Too many minutes, really, by everyone," Rivers said. "The first thing I saw when I looked at the stat sheet: I didn't like the minutes. That'll change. I've just got to expand (the rotation). With (Teodosic) out, that hurts us."
Veteran Lou Williams will get first call off the bench in the backcourt; next up are rookie guards Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans.
"One of those two will play," Rivers said. "They both are ready. Sindarius has a chance to be an elite defender in this league, though maybe not right away. The minutes will help him. So we're just going to plug him in."
Even with Teodosic down, the Clippers' bench has provided 40.3 points per game, tied for eighth in the league. The Blazers (40.8) are seventh, getting strong performances from forwards Evan Turner (13.3) and Ed Davis (8.8 points along with 9.3 rebounds).
In Portland's 103-93 win over New Orleans on Tuesday night, the Blazers (3-1) got a lift from reserves Davis (12 points and 10 rebounds, including six off the offensive glass), Turner (13 points, seven rebounds), Pat Connaughton (eight points, six rebounds), rookie Caleb Swanigan (five points, eight boards) and Meyers Leonard (five points on 2-for-2 shooting, two boards in six minutes).
"We have so many guys we can count on," starting point guard Damian Lillard said. "Each game we've played, guys have come in and gotten the job done. They're helping us produce wins. When you're doing that over a period of time, you see you're a deeper team. The longer we can sustain that, the better we'll be as a team."
Davis has been a consistent producer in Portland's four games, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds while shooting 58.3 percent. The 6-foot-10 veteran, who is in the final year of a three-year, $21 million contract, underwent shoulder surgery in March and missed the rest of the 2016-17 season. The shoulder had been bothering him for some time, and he vowed he would come back an improved product.
"It started as soon as I got my shoulder fixed," he said. "It changed from that day. I took five days off all summer."
Paying tribute to Davis' work ethic, some teammates have taken to calling him "Shirt-Off Ed."
"Dame (Lillard) started it one day when I had my shirt off in the weight room," Davis said. "I work hard for my body, man. I've got to make sure people see it."
The Clippers game will be the second of 10 home dates for Portland over the next 11 games.
The Clippers have owned the Blazers of late, sweeping a three-game series last year and winning 10 of the last 14 meetings. Forward Blake Griffin averaged 25 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists against Portland a year ago.