Clippers picking up steam ahead of Blazers battle

NBA

Defense has been the best offense so far for the Los Angeles Clippers, according to coach Doc Rivers. But the Clippers’ offense would be hard-pressed to duplicate its previous effort when Los Angeles hosts the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.

“We are far closer to being great defensively right now than we are offensively,” Rivers said. “And that’s the area that we have to keep getting better.”

The Washington Wizards might believe Rivers is a bit delusional. They were on the short end of a 150-125 road loss to the Clippers on Sunday night.

Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points in 26 minutes for Los Angeles. Paul George delivered 27 of his 31 points in the first half as the Clippers matched the second-highest scoring output in franchise history. They also scored 150 points in a 49-point rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 16. The Clippers are averaging 115.4 points per game, which was fifth best in the NBA entering Monday.

George rebounded from a poor performance Friday, when he was limited to five points in a 107-97 loss to the San Antonio Spurs that ended the Clippers’ seven-game winning streak.

Against the Wizards, Montrezl Harrell contributed 23 points and Lou Williams added 22 points off the bench for the Clippers.

The offensive struggles are minor, Williams said, but mainly due to their unfamiliarity of playing with each other, particularly with newcomers Leonard and George in the mix.

“We’ve got three guys that are averaging over 20 points a game in their last three seasons, then you have (Harrell) who’s coming into his own, he’s averaging nearly 20 points a game as well,” said Williams, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve come from three different teams where we’re used to having the basketball in our hands. You put all those things together, you’ve got to kind of take a back seat to other guys at certain times of the game.”

Portland has improved after a sluggish start. The Blazers earned a 107-103 victory at home over the Chicago Bulls on Friday for their third straight win after a four-game skid. Damian Lillard scored 28 points and handed out six assists while Carmelo Anthony added 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Blazers.

However, the postgame buzz centered on Portland center Hassan Whiteside, who had a franchise-record 10 blocks to go along with 15 boards and eight points.

Whiteside broke the club record of nine shared by Bill Walton, Joel Przybilla, Theo Ratliff and Mychal Thompson.

“Anytime you beat a Hall of Fame record, it’s special,” said Whiteside, according to OregonLive.com.

His teammates were equally impressed.

“He had a great, great defensive performance,” said Lillard, according to OregonLive.com. “I thought it was pretty much the difference in the game for us. He came up big on the glass, rebounding out of his area, and he blocked 10 shots. If they didn’t change (their offense), he probably would have blocked 15.”

The addition of Anthony has provided the Blazers a boost offensively. He is averaging 17.7 points in the six games since joining Portland as a free agent, and he was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday.

The game against the Clippers will be the first of back-to-back contests for the Blazers. They host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

The Clippers will embark on a six-game road swing following Portland’s visit, beginning Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

–Field Level Media

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