First Round Preview: (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Portland TrailBlazers

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Overview:

This 4 vs. 5 series out West is possibly the only series that truly can go the distance. Although the Clippers beat the Blazers 3 games to 1 during the regular season, all of that goes out the window now. Portland lost 4 starters last season, earning the 5 seed out West speaks volumes to Terry Stotts’ abilities as a head coach. Doc Rivers swung for the fences last offseason. Some of those personnel decisions ultimately didn’t pay off. However, the Clippers are once again in gear for the playoffs. Blake Griffin is back healthy. Chris Paul has been his usual self. Damian Lillard proved that he can lead a team. Cj McCollum was the breakout star of 2015-16. There are many narratives that will ultimately make this series a high-octane one, but more importantly, there are many narratives that will decide this series.

X-Factors

Portland: Cj McCollum & Al-Farouq Aminu

McCollum has made the most of his opportunities this year by turning out a career year for the Blazers. The Most Improved Player of the Year favorite will be asked to match his backcourt mate, Damian Lillard, tat for tat. Aminu is another player who had a breakout year for Portland. He filled in the void left by Nicolas Batum’s departure nicely. Added incentive for him this postseaso, is a chance to stick it to the team that drafted him back in 2010. The Clippers gave up on Aminu after his rookie year, as he was one of the pieces sent to New Orleans in that volatile Chris Paul trade.

Los Angeles: Blake Griffin & Jamal Crawford

Blake Griffin missed a huge chunk of games. In that time, the Clippers were able to weather the storm and almost keep their footing with the big boys out West. As we’ve witnessed in recent memory, an injury can lead to stars being forgotten. I look forward to Blake Griffin reasserting himself as one of the premier players at his position. On paper and on the court, the Clippers’ chances of advancing are much better with Griffin in tow. Jamal Crawford is quite the luxury to have at your disposal. The mercurial guard is capable of getting buckets in a hurry. This series presents him with a chance to settle some inner scores as his lone year in Portland is arguably the worst campaign of his historic NBA career. His production will be key in winning the second unit battles that are sure to be important in deciding this series.

Key Matchup:

Chris Paul vs. Damian Lillard

Another crazy point guard matchup out West. Paul and Lillard represent the two main schools of point guarding. Paul being the consummate do everything lead guard, and Lillard being the assassin. Both of these teams rely on their leads to wear many hats. Those reasons alone are part of why both teams turned out successful 2015-16 campaigns. Look for this series to be hotly contested, game in and out. Whoever comes out on top in this matchup will have definitely given their team the advantage in the series.

Prediction:

Clippers in 6. Outside of their backcourt, Portland will be hard-pressed to find production from the others. The Clippers, regardless of their dysfunction, just have too much talent to toil in this matchup. Paul Pierce’s playoff experience will be relied upon to help the Clippers in their quest to finally reach a Western Conference Finals. Portland’s young players will learn greatly from this playoff season and grow from it going forward.

 

Schedule:

Apr 17NBA Playoffs First Round, Game 1
Trail Blazers

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10:30 PM
Clippers
Apr 20NBA Playoffs First Round, Game 2
Trail Blazers

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10:30 PM
Clippers
Apr 23NBA Playoffs First Round, Game 3
Clippers

@

10:30 PM
Trail Blazers
Apr 25NBA Playoffs First Round, Game 4
Clippers

@

10:30 PM
Trail Blazers
Apr 27NBA Playoffs First Round, Game 5
Trail Blazers

@

TBD
Clippers
Apr 29NBA Playoffs First Round, Game 6
Clippers

@

TBD
Trail Blazers
May 1NBA Playoffs First Round, Game 7
Trail Blazers

@

TBD
Clippers

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