The wonderful world of the NBA keeps churning this week. Twenty-Eight of the Association’s 30 teams have now experienced the bitter taste of defeat with the Grizzlies and Wizards both losing on the road to inferior teams (Dallas and the Lakers) last night.
The Spurs are one of the undefeateds after downing Miami in South Beach last night to reach 4–0. San Antonio still has Kawhi Leonard‘s return to look forward to.
The other undefeated team remaining would be the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips have won three games by an average of over 25 points, the biggest point differential per game in the league. But they face their toughest test of the season yet tonight in Portland.
The Clippers’ 25 point differential per game tops the NBA but Portland’s 18 is second, and it includes a loss, by three in Milwaukee. Of course, these numbers don’t mean a whole lot when a team has played just three or four games and it’s no coincidence both of these teams have already had a game against Phoenix to help inflate the number.
But they have both been two of the best-looking teams in the early going. Portland smashed Phoenix on opening night without CJ McCollum, who was serving a one-game suspension. Then they blew out Indiana and handled New Orleans by double-digits on either end of the narrow loss to the Bucks on the road.
Jusuf Nurkic made a difference when he came over from Denver toward the end of last season but he just came too late to change the Blazers’ fate: a first round matchup with the Warriors. A full season will be enough to see how good the Blazers are with Nurkic in the middle, though. He’s averaging 12 and 8 through four games this season and brings much-needed balance to a team with one of the best guard combinations in the NBA.
Whereas Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would have taken over the paint against Portland last year, they will meet someone their own size tonight. Nurkic could still use some help against the Clippers’ size but however much his presence neutralizes the Clippers’ bigs will pay for Portland in the final score. Take away Chris Paul, add Nurkic and Portland’s perimeter advantage may actually now be bigger than LA’s interior one.
It feels like these teams are about on the same level. I’ll take Portland’s long-term outlook because if Blake Griffin goes down, the Clippers are done. And history has proven that exceedingly likely. But If Griffin says healthy, he’s bound to make his way back onto the All-NBA Team this season; he’s already averaging 27 and 10 so far. As for tonight, I’ll take the home-court and give the two points because the Blazers are no joke in Portland. Regardless of who you like, it’s the game to watch on Thursday night.
Free Pick: Portland -2