LA Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers Pick
LA Clippers (12-6, 11-7 ATS) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (12-7, 11-8 ATS)
When: Sunday, November 25th, 2018 – 9:00 pm ET
Where: Moda Center – Portland, OR
TV: Local TV Only
By: Kyle Cash, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LAC +4/POR -4
Last Night in the NBA
Kevin Durant: 44 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 blocks.
James Harden: 40 points, 4 rebounds, 13 assists, 5 three-pointers, 1 steal.
Russell Westbrook: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, 1 steal.
For all you math nerds out there, that’s 100 points, 27 rebounds and 32 assists. In addition to three NBA MVP awards, two NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVPs. This is like the worst version of “12 Days of Christmas” that an Oklahoma City Thunder fan could possibly hear. The Harden trade is the biggest sliding doors moment in professional basketball history. Don’t @ me.
As NFL Redzone wraps up, it would’ve been nice to be able to hunker down on the couch, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and settle in for a premiere NBA match-up. Unfortunately, the NBA’s national television contract is empty on November 25th, 2018. Maybe they thought that I was going to be out to dinner with my family to celebrate my sister’s birthday. Jokes on you, NBA: we took care of all that nonsense on Thursday (happy birthday, big sis). Give me my hoops!
Today’s College Basketball Pick: Nova vs. FSU
Regardless, we have a nice little slate to satiate my needs, and with dealer’s choice, I had no option but to land on the game that V egas feels will be the most hotly contested. The Western Conference #1 Seed Los Angeles Clippers is not a phrase that I thought would be in the written word outside of Clippers’ Fan Fiction Forums, but that’s where we are today as they travel to Portland to take on Dame and CJ. The Trail Blazers are currently 4-point home favorites with the total set at a juicy 227 points. Head to r/nbastreams immediately.
The Sum of the Parts
Welcome to your feel good story of the year. Ever since Chris Paul landed in Los Angeles, the Clippers had a bad attitude. Watching a team bitch and moan for every push and pull created a toxic environment that seeped into their fandom, and things got ugly there for a while. Now that the Donald Sterling skeletons have been completely excavated from the premises, Steve Ballmer has allowed The Logo Jerry West to craft a roster in a Moneyball-esque way. The Clippers lack of a conventional superstar is the exact reason for their success. Know your role, share the ball, play your ass off. Basketball looks easy for the Clippers, and I am loving every second of it.
However, Portland represents an interesting foil for the Clippers’ roster construction. On paper, LA’s backcourt seems fearsome, but Avery Bradley is a shell of a shell of a shell of himself, SGA and Pat Bev are limited for different reasons, and Lou Williams couldn’t guard Damian Lillard with a crowbar. Montrezl Harrell has gained some national buzz for his play, and it’s with good reason; he is a rebound-hunting energizer bunny that is like the adrenaline needle from Pulp Fiction for this team. But Portland has some springy guys themselves. Jusuf Nurkic is a behemoth, and Aminu and Zach Collins work well in tandem. Across the board, Portland presents either headaches or blockades, and the way this game goes will be dictated by the individual match-ups that the Clippers can exploit.
Blazing a Trail
For a while, it seemed as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually be the best team in the Western Conference. To be fair, they still might be that team. It’s early in the season, and you can’t exactly blame them for dropping two games at the end of a road trip against the Bucks and the Warriors. Damian Lillard is an MVP-favorite yet again, but Portland’s margin for error is still razor-thin. A two game losing streak in the Western Conference slides you from 1st to 5th these days, and it’s time for Portland to strap on a tourniquet and stop the bleeding as they regain their composure at home.
That may be easier said than done with the Clippers coming into town. It’s strange to have these feelings about the Clippers. Even in the past couple of years when they were Lob City, it always seemed like they were beatable. I think that the thrill of sticking it to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin amped up their opponents for the game, so Lob City always took the other team’s best shot. Now, people see a team with Boban and Danilo Gallinari and expect to roll over them. Never underestimate your opponent – just ask Apollo Creed about that.
The Clippers just might be this year’s Rocky, and they’re just as hard to knock out. Lou Williams, despite his defensive presence (or lack thereof), is a fourth-quarter assassin. Harrell, Tobias, and Gallinari are a forward rotation from Hell; each guy possesses his own style, strengths, and weaknesses that make the other two better or harder to deal with. Portland’s wing depth isn’t exactly something to write home about, and for the Trail Blazers to knock out the Los Angeles Stallion, they will need to win some of their fringe match-ups. It’s time for Evan Turner to earn that contract.
Four Factors of Winning
Since we’re all about finding the edge here at Predictem.com, let’s take the time each day to dive into the stats that lead to winning basketball games. According to a theory posited by Dean Oliver, a win in basketball can be narrowed down to four factors: shooting, turnovers, rebounding and free throws. Each day, I will take a look at the areas that each team excels at or is susceptible to, and we will see if we can find a specific reason why Team A will beat Team B.
When it comes to the statistics, there aren’t a lot of factors that we can point to that will allow us to gain an analytical edge in our pick. With such a deep team, the Clippers attack the basket constantly, and thus are the best team in the league at generating free throws. Unfortunately, they are also the 5th biggest perpetrator at allowing the opposing unit to get to the charity stripe. Both teams turn it over at a decent rate while generating little to no turnovers of their own. Amazingly, the Clippers are lead the NBA in opponent effective field goal percentage; no team in the league has had more success at preventing the ball from traveling through their own hoop. This can mean either a) luck is on their side, and teams are missing open shots against them or b) they are a better defensive unit than which the defensive rating system gives them credit. The real story lies somewhere between those two narratives. Statistically, we’ve run out of options – these two teams are dead-even. We’re going to need to look elsewhere for our edge.
This is such a close call for a game that it would be silly to do anything other than take the points and run. Statistically, these two teams are dead-even; both excel in areas where the other fails, but not in a way that could lead to an enormous edge. And narratively, what am I supposed to point to? Maybe Damian Lillard hates Boban’s huge nose? Are Gallinari’s and Nurkic’s countries at war? I couldn’t even find anything on any of their Instagrams about partying or other nefarious activities. I’m actually mad that there isn’t some scandal I can point to that would lead us in either direction. My best advice is that this has all of the makings of a one possession game, and with a spread of 4, I like the Clippers chances. If you want to be a little bit safer, feel free to tease the spread (for either team) and the over down to 223. It’s always fun to root for points, and since the Chiefs and the Rams have byes this week, it’s up to the NBA to deliver a high-scoring game for us.
Final Score Prediction: Portland Trail Blazers 118 – Los Angeles Clippers 115