The race to secure a spot in the playoffs in the Western Conference has become a vicious dogfight. The Clippers now hold a position in the center of the rankings, and while they are just a hair’s breadth away from the fourth spot, they are perilously near to having to compete in the play-in event. Because of this, every victory is important, and to their relief, they have a record of 4-1 in their past five contests.
It’s fascinating to think about how they’ve won all those games despite the odds. Their victories against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors are examples of some of the “gun battles” they’ve been in, in which the points are scored quickly and freely. They could still come out on top in games when the defense was the primary focus, such as the ones they played against the New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors.
The exceptional performance of their two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, has been a constant factor in all four of their recent victories. This factor accounts for the majority of their success. Not only are the two individuals in charge of the team’s direction, but their output is also helping to fill up any gaps.
Consider the case of Leonard as an illustration. This group could use some added strength in the center of the field. So, he has delivered that in significant victories. In their wins against the Grizzlies and the Raptors, he had tremendous double-doubles, and he pulled down a combined total of 22 rebounds in both games. For the last five games, he has had a near-double-digit rebounding average. While he was sitting out, the Orlando Magic defeated the Clippers in their most recent game, which was their only loss in the previous five games.
On the other side, George has taken on the responsibility of serving as the secondary playmaker for the club. George gave a spark for the Thunder’s victory against the Knicks by handing up eight assists in that game. Russell Westbrook had a rough day. In the game, when the Magic defeated them, he finished with one dime, further emphasizing his playmaking’s significance.
Because they are coming from a devastating defeat, the Portland Trail Blazers will have difficulty containing the two superstars who play for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Trail Blazers feel the impact of each victory counting twice as much. The Blazers are among the many teams competing to earn a berth in the play-in tournament in March. The previous two weeks have seen a steep decline on their part. The Portland Trail Blazers are mired in a five-game losing skid and have been victorious in just two of their nine games this month. They sit in 13th place in the Western Conference, 2.5 games behind the 10th seed.
Damian Lillard is the only person who can be blameless in this situation. The outstanding player for Portland has given their squad all they may need to succeed. For the current month, he is averaging 34.3 points and 4.4 3-pointers. In the eight games that Lillard has participated in this month, he has scored at least 30 points six times, including a career-high 41 points on three occasions.
In addition, Lillard needs more steam. His efficiency stats have decreased this month, which is surprising given that he shot nearly 50 percent on average over the previous two months. He only has a 44.3 percent field goal percentage and turns the ball over an average of 4.3 times a game. The pressure of leading the Blazers to the postseason playoffs has grown too much for him to bear.
The Blazers do not have any other viable options now that Lillard has been traded. Because of Jerami Grant’s injury, the Trail Blazers cannot afford Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic to perform below average. Regrettably, they have yet to be strong support for Lillard. In March, Simons is only averaging 18.8 points per game in scoring. Even worse than that has been Nurkic, who has averaged only 6.4 points per game so far this month.
In this matchup against the Clippers, it seems that Dame D.O.L.L.A. will have to carry the team independently.