The Los Angeles Clippers will take on the Portland Trail Blazers tonight at 10 p.m. EST at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Both of these teams are currently just one seed apart in the Western Conference, separated by just a half a game.
The Clippers have been slowly rising after winning four of their last six games, bringing them to a 12-9 record. This season, their strongest suit is on defense, where they allow the second-fewest points in the league at just 106.8. On the contrary, they rank dead last on offense in points per game at 106.4.
The Trail Blazers sit just behind the Clippers with an 11-9 record and are looking to bounce back after a really tough stretch of games. They started off the season 9-3 and have since won just two games out of their last eight. Damian Lillard’s continued absence has been really tough for them, especially in closing out close games.
How Los Angeles Can Win:
The Clippers can win if Ivica Zubac can carry over his performance against the Indiana Pacers to Portland. In their 114-100 win on Sunday, Zubac scored 31 points and added 29 rebounds in his historic performance. Los Angeles has been awesome on defense this season and if Zubac is leading the charge and putting up a comparable performance, then I think they can keep up with the top teams in the West.
How Portland Can Win:
The Trail Blazers need to learn to close out games without Lillard. As of late, fourth quarter scoring has been tough, averaging just 20.7 points per game in their last three games. They need a spark at home, playing in their first game off a four game road trip where they lost three of those games.
Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant have come up huge in Lillard’s absence and have found their form, each in their own right. They are going to have to continue doing what they have been doing to lead Portland to victory.
Prediction: Portland Trail Blazers 107, Los Angeles Clippers 99
The Clippers defense should keep it close in this game, but ultimately, the Trail Blazers offense will find holes and take over the game. This will be a game where they close out strong and get the win.