LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (57-24)
at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (53-28)
Tip-off: Tuesday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Portland -2.5, Total: 208
The red-hot Clippers are hoping to capture the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference when they close out the regular season Wednesday night with a visit to the Trail Blazers.
Los Angeles will finish second in the Western Conference with a win on Wednesday plus an Oklahoma City loss at home to Detroit, but will be playing this game without star PF Blake Griffin (24.1 PPG) who is suspended for this matchup after picking up his 16th technical foul of the season on Tuesday during a 117-105 win over Denver. But Portland, which is locked into the No. 5 seed, could also be missing its star big man, as PF LaMarcus Aldridge will likely sit out this game to rest up for the playoffs this weekend when his team faces Houston. Both teams have been rolling towards the postseason, as the Clippers are 20-4 SU (15-8-1 ATS) in their past 24 games, including 9-2 SU (8-2-1 ATS) on the road during this timeframe to improve to 23-17 SU (25-14-1 ATS) away from home this season. But the Trail Blazers are an impressive 8-1 SU (5-4 ATS) in their past nine contests, including four straight victories. They are a tough team to beat at home where they have a 30-10 SU record, but are just 18-22 ATS at Moda Center. The home team has won both meetings this season, with L.A. shooting a blistering 58.2% FG in the most recent matchup, a 122-117 win on Feb. 12 at Staples Center. The Clippers are 7-3 SU (5-4-1 ATS) in this series over the past three seasons, but the Blazers hold a commanding 26-7 SU (16-16-1 ATS) advantage at home in this series since 1996. Both clubs have negative coaching trends working against them, as Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers is 41-63 ATS (39%) after his team scores at least 100 points in 3+ straight games since 1996, but Portland is 0-10 ATS in April home games under Terry Stotts.
Can the Clippers pull off the upset on the road? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts are finishing the regular season strong at 53% ATS (61-55-5) in NBA Best Bets since March 9. StatFox Zach is a stellar 64% ATS (16-9-1) in NBA Best Bets since March 9, while StatFox Gary has remained hot with a 56% ATS mark (22-17-1) in Best Bets since Feb. 13. StatFox Dave has a profitable 55% ATS (52-42-3) NBA Best Bets record since Dec. 1, StatFox Brian is 53% ATS (30-27-2) in Best Bets since Jan. 25 and StatFox Scott is 53% ATS (8-7-1) in Best Bets since March 24.
The Clippers' offense continues to click on all cylinders with an NBA-high 108.0 PPG on 47.5% FG (3rd in league). They rank third in the NBA in assists (24.6 APG), and despite their up-tempo offense, they turn the ball over just 13.4 times per game (8th-fewest in NBA). Although this defense allows a pedestrian 100.8 PPG (14th in NBA), L.A. does a tremendous job challenging most shots, as opponents make only 44.1% FG (5th in league) and 33.1% threes (best in NBA). The one negative is that Los Angeles has been outrebounded on the season by 0.5 RPG, and that's not likely to improve with PF Blake Griffin (9.5 RPG) out of the lineup. But as long as the Clippers have PG Chris Paul (19.1 PPG, 10.7 APG, 4.3 RPG, 2.5 SPG), they always have a chance to win. Paul has posted two straight double-doubles (19.0 PPG, 10.0 APG), and he has completely manhandled Portland this season with 27.0 PPG (59% FG), 14.0 APG and 4.5 SPG in two meetings. With Griffin out, C DeAndre Jordan (10.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 2.5 BPG) may be asked to provide more offense, but he's played very well over his past five games with 15.2 PPG, 12.8 RPG and 3.6 BPG over his past five games. He has scored just 8.0 PPG with 12.5 RPG in two meetings with the Blazers this season though. Another player that needs to provide more offense with Griffin out is SG Jamal Crawford (18.4 PPG, 3.2 APG), who has not found his rhythm in two games since returning from a five-game absence due to a calf injury. In these past two games, Crawford has just 9.5 PPG on 6-of-17 FG (35%), but he has not been shy against the Blazers this season with 23.0 PPG on 41% FG in two meetings.
Portland's offense is not much worse than the Clippers, as the team produces 106.7 PPG (3rd in NBA) on 45.0% FG (14th in league) and 37.2% threes (9th in NBA). The Blazers also do a nice job of sharing the basketball (23.1 APG, 9th in league), while committing only 13.4 turnovers per game (7th in NBA). Defensively, Portland attacks the glass with ferocity (+2.7 RPG margin, 7th in league), but still gives up 102.7 PPG (22nd in NBA) despite doing a decent job of contesting shots, allowing 45.2% FG (11th in league) and 35.8% threes (14th in NBA). With PF LaMarcus Aldridge (23.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG) doubtful to play in this game, C Robin Lopez (11.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG) will need to build on his recent scoring surge of 12+ points in three straight games, where he's averaged 13.7 PPG and 8.0 RPG. Lopez has averaged a double-double of 11.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG in two meetings with L.A. this season. PG Damian Lillard (20.8 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.6 RPG) needs to do a better job defending Chris Paul, and will probably look to score more as well, as he's made 50% of his shots versus the Clippers this season, but has just 17.5 PPG and 4.5 APG in the two games. He's been more of a distributor during his team's four-game win streak, averaging only 17.0 PPG, but an unselfish 6.5 APG. SF Nicolas Batum (13.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.1 APG) is peaking towards the postseason with three double-doubles over his past five contests where he's averaged 14.6 PPG on 60% FG with 8.6 RPG and 5.6 APG.