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Blazers host Clippers on Thursday night
By: Freddy Wander - StatFox
Published: 12/26/2013  at  7:12:00 AM
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Tip-off: Thursday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Portland -4, Total: 212

The Trail Blazers attempt to defend their home court and stay in first place in the Western Conference when they host the Clippers on Thursday night.

Los Angeles has done well in its past nine games, going 7-2 (both SU and ATS) with a 5-game winning streak before its narrow 105-103 Christmas Day loss to the Warriors. Portland has been the league's surprise team this season and is currently tied with the Thunder and Pacers for the best record in the NBA. But the Blazers are riding a four-game ATS losing skid with wins by 2, 3 and 3 points plus an outright loss in Minnesota. Los Angeles has held its own on the road with an 8-8 SU record, while also performing well ATS (10-6). Portland has been exceptional SU at home (11-2), and is 8-5 ATS at Moda Center as well. The two franchises met four times last season with the Clippers going 3-1 SU (2-1-1 ATS) while defeating the Blazers most recently by a score of 93-77 as huge 16-point favorites at home on April 16. In that game, Portland was outrebounded, 51-33, while shooting only 41.1% from the field. The Blazers have done well at home SU against the Clippers since 1996 (25-7 SU), but have nearly split ATS (16-15-1) with the average score being Portland 101 and L.A. 94. Los Angeles is 12-3 ATS (80%) when playing a team with a winning record this season, while the Blazers are 27-12 ATS (69%) in home games after playing a game as a favorite over the past three seasons. SGs J.J. Redick (wrist) and Reggie Bullock (ankle) continue to miss time for the Clippers, while PG Mo Williams (hip) is questionable for this game for Portland.

Can the Blazers remain in first place with a win on Saturday? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are sizzling on NBA Best Bets in December, going 63% ATS (50-29) including 75% ATS (24-8) since Dec. 16. During the month, StatFox Zach has an astronomical 88% ATS mark (14-2) and is currently 61% ATS (25-16) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has an excellent 77% ATS (13-4) Best Bets record in December and is 56% ATS (23-18) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Gary is 56% ATS (9-7) in December Best Bets, and since Dec. 16, Gary and StatFox Brian are 5-2 ATS, while StatFox Scott is 3-2 ATS.

The Clippers currently rank fifth in the league with 105.0 PPG, while shooting a solid 46.6% from the field (7th in the NBA), but a dismal 33.3% from three-point range (26th in league). They also benefit from having the top point guard in the league (Chris Paul) as they have dished out 23.7 APG (4th in the NBA) so far this season. Their defense has played surprisingly well and ranks 11th in the league, giving up 99.3 PPG to their opponents. As mentioned before, PG Chris Paul (19.4 PPG, 11.3 APG, 4.6 RPG, 2.3 SPG) is the floor general and leader for this team with an NBA-best 4.4 Ast/TO ratio. He has a four-game, double-double streak (16.8 PPG, 11.5 APG), and averaged 14.5 PPG (50% FG) with 8.5 APG and 3.0 SPG over two games against Portland last season. Paul has similar numbers (13.8 PPG, 8.8 APG, 2.5 SPG) over his 26 career games playing the Blazers. PF Blake Griffin (20.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG) is the teamís current leading scorer while also being on a 4-game double-double streak (24.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG), which he was able to keep alive on Wednesday despite getting ejected after two questionable technical fouls. Griffin has been exceptional against Portland over 11 career games (19.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG), including a near triple-double (24 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) in his last trip to Moda Center. SG Jamal Crawford (16.7 PPG) has been inserted into the starting lineup with the injury to SG J.J. Redick, and has averaged 19.8 PPG in his six starts. He scored 19 points on 9-of-21 FG against Golden State on Wednesday, but did not record an assist or rebound in 36 minutes. He scored 15.3 PPG (45% FG) coming off the bench in four games last season against the Blazers and has performed similarly (15.5 PPG on 42% FG) in 21 career games (10 starts) against them. C DeAndre Jordan (9.7 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 2.3 BPG) is a force in the paint and is coming off a big game against the Warriors where he had 13 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.

The Trail Blazers have rewarded their fans with some exciting basketball this season thanks in part to scoring a league-high 108.4 PPG. They have netted over 100 points in each of their past 15 contests (112.8 PPG) and are shooting an NBA-best 40.5% from behind the arc for the season. Their defense has not exactly excelled though, giving up 102.1 PPG to their opponents (9th worst in NBA) on the season. PF LaMarcus Aldridge (23.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG) is having a career season in his 8th NBA campaign, and is putting up even better numbers in 12 December games (24.4 PPG, 13.0 RPG). He scored 15.7 PPG (47% FG) with 7.0 RPG in three games against the Clippers last season, and has 16.5 PPG (48% FG) while grabbing 7.2 RPG in 20 career games (19 starts) against them. PG Damian Lillard (21.5 PPG, 5.8 APG) has become one of the most exciting young players to watch in the league, but he's shooting only 41.2% from the field. Lillard scored 16.0 PPG while shooting 40% FG, but also 40% threes (10-for-25) in four games against L.A. in his rookie season. SG Wesley Matthews (16.3 PPG on 50% FG, 44% threes, 1.0 SPG) is having a breakout season and has scored double-digit points in all but four games this season. In his three seasons with the Blazers, Matthews has averaged 15.1 PPG (46% FG) in 10 games when facing the Clippers. SF Nicolas Batum (14.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.3 APG) had a tremendous three games against Los Angeles last season (17.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 8.3 APG) and will be looking to repeat his success on Thursday night.

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