Blazers to prey on wounded Clippers?

Blazers to take advantage of wounded Clippers?

Just a few days ago, the Clippers seemed all but assured of a spot in the Western Conference quarterfinals. A miserable trip to the Pacific Northwest now has pundits and fans alike wondering if the team can win another game this year.

Los Angeles hopes that a return to the Staples Center tonight will help stabilize an absurdly unwieldy situation. The Trail Blazers and Clips square off at 10 p.m. ET in Game 5, with oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI fairly torn regarding the matchup. Hours before the tip, Portland sits as a 3-point favorite.

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Not only did the Clippers drop each of the past two contests at Moda Center, they suffered devastating personnel losses. Blake Griffin aggravated his left quadriceps tendon on Monday, while Chris Paul sustained a hand fracture in the third quarter of that 98-84 defeat. The star power forward has already been ruled out for the rest of the campaign. As for Paul, he just went underwent surgery and is questionable to come back should Doc Rivers’ crew advance beyond the first round.

Such a proposition seems increasingly dicey. The Blazers tied the series by rediscovering the backcourt-driven attack that produced 44 wins during the regular season. Refreshingly, though, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard weren’t forced to shoulder the burden themselves. Al-Farouq Aminu actually led the way with a career-high 30 points two nights ago, and center Mason Plumlee chipped in with 14 and 10 assists.

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Sans Paul, Los Angeles will be forced to incorporate a motion offense that features Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers on the perimeter. It could take a while to coalesce, putting the onus on J.J. Reddick to produce a steady supply of 3-pointers. Even if Reddick performs his customary feats, though, the Crawford-Rivers tandem simply can’t involve DeAndre Jordan in the manner that Paul could. Unless the Clippers find a way to dominate the boards, they’re likely bound for further disappointment.

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