New-look Clippers come to Portland
PORTLAND, Oregon -- The makeover of the Los Angeles Clippers is complete. And the current product doesn't look bad at all.
Gone are the top six scorers from the 2016-17 team that won 51 games and featured the likes of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. The only key remaining piece is Doc Rivers, now in his sixth season coaching the Clippers. A new roster put into place over the past year is headlined by forwards Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari and sweet-shooting sixth man Lou Williams.
The new-look Clippers (6-4) invade Moda Center for a Thursday night date with the Portland Trail Blazers.
"They've totally rebuilt that team," Portland guard CJ McCollum said, "and they've played well. They're going to be another good test for us."
The Trail Blazers (8-3) passed one big test Tuesday night, McCollum leading the way with a season-high 40 points in a 118-103 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
McCollum hadn't exactly been slumping, but his season scoring average of 18.9 going into the Milwaukee game was 2 1/2 points lower than that of his average during the 2017-18 season. McCollum was also shooting only 34.5 percent from 3-point range, well below his 39.7 mark of a year ago. He said he always works on his shooting, but that he puts in a little more time with it when things aren't going smoothly.
"Especially when I'm shooting 34 percent from 3, and people write articles about how I'm not playing well," the 6-3 shooting guard said. "I work on my craft. That's the biggest thing I pride myself on. I prepare. Whether I play well or not, I know how much time I spend watching film and breaking down how I can be effective."
The Clippers game will be the fifth in a six-game homestand for the Trail Blazers, who considered the win over the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks a statement that they are a contender in the Western Conference.
"It was big," McCollum said. "We needed it. (The Bucks) are a very good team, playing extremely well, making a lot of 3s. It was a challenging game for us.
"We felt like we shouldn't have lost to the Wizards (at home on Oct. 22). We wanted to take advantage of the rest of this homestand."
The Clippers rank fifth in the NBA in opponents' field goal percentage (43.2) and seventh in opponents' 3-point percentage (32.7). In Monday's 120-109 win over Minnesota, the Timberwolves were held to five 3-point baskets.
"That's what we're trying to do -- guard the 3-point line and take away transition," Rivers said. "If we can do that, we're going to win a lot of games."
The Clippers will be missing starting shooting guard Avery Bradley (ankle) and reserve forward Luc Mbah a Moute (knee). In Bradley's place for the first time Sunday was rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The 6-6 former Kentucky standout contributed six points, five assists and three rebounds in his 25 minutes.
"Shai was pretty solid," Rivers said. "It was his first start, and he looked tired quickly, but as the game went on, he got more comfortable. He made some plays. He's not scared. He's just going to play his game."Home