Clippers at Mavericks (8pm ET Thursday, ESPN)
The Los Angeles Clippers are coming off a 94-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, on the strength of 7 free throws in the final 13 seconds. The win put their record at 5-2, good enough for second place in the West. Their only two losses this season have come against their archnemesis, the Rockets, who bounced them from the semis in last season’s playoffs, and the Warriors, who won the title the Clippers know they should’ve competed for.
The loss against Houston came thanks in large part to a blown goaltending call and Chris Paul having been sidelined with a groin pull. (When Blake Griffin leads your squad in assists with 5, your offense probably isn’t performing at peak efficiency.) Paul returned on Monday, however, and appears to be OK to go tonight.
Clips forward DeAndre Jordan is ready for the boos that will rain down upon him in Dallas, where he tantalized fans by nearly signing with them before being wooed back to LA by his teammates. Asked about his likely reception by the Dallas fans, Jordan was succinct: ”It’s cool.”
The Jordanless Mavs are 3-4 following a 120-105 defeat at the hands of the previously winless Pelicans (man, that name…), a loss made all the more depressing by the fact that the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis sat out the second half with what was termed a “bruised hip.” If you can’t beat the Pelicans minus Davis, you’ve got a long road ahead of you.
Dirk Nowitzki is shooting .517 from the floor, including .440 from the 3-point land and .944 from the charity stripe, but at 37 is logging just 26.9 minutes per game, limiting his scoring to 17.1 per game.
Spurs vs. Trail Blazers (10:30pm ET Wednesday, ESPN)
The San Antonio Spurs’ retooled roster seems to be coming together nicely, as they’re 5-2, have the league’s second-best point differential (10.6) and a bench deep enough that 8 guys are playing at least 19 minutes a game, and 10 are averaging 10 or more points per 36 minutes. Shiny new power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds a game, Kawhi Leonard continues to blossom into a superstar, averaging career highs in points, rebounds and blocks, and coach Gregg Popovich continues dial back Tim Duncan’s minutes, to a career-low 27.6 per game. These guys are serious about a sixth title.
This will represent Aldridge’s first game against his former team, the Portland Trail Blazers, who are 4-4 following back-to-back losses to Detroit and Denver. The record is made more disappointing by the fact that they haven’t been able to capitalize on a weak schedule, as their opponents thus far have had a meager .473 winning percentage. Point guard Damian Lillard has stepped up big time in Aldridge’s absence, averaging career highs in points,, 27.5, and assists, 7.3, and he’s shooting .429 from 3-point land.