The Clippers' 117-105 win Tuesday night at home against Denver kept Los Angeles alive for the possible No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. For that to happen, the Oklahoma City Thunder would have to be upset earlier Wednesday at home against a bad Detroit team (OKC is -14 on NBA odds). At least the Clippers will know where they stand by the time their game tips off. Should the Thunder win, that could heavily influence Clippers coach Doc Rivers on the possibility of resting starters such as Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan (more on that in a second).
If L.A. stays at No. 3 it would face Golden State in the first round. That proposition looks a little better now that Warriors center Andrew Bogut is likely going to be sidelined for the playoffs due to a broken rib. Los Angeles is as healthy as it has been all season other than buyout addition Danny Granger. He has been out since March 27 with a strained left hamstring and won't play in this game. He might be ready for the playoffs.
The Clips (46-34-1 ATS, 43-37-1 O/U at sportsbooks) will for sure be without Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick for this game as they didn't make the trip. Griffin got his 16th technical foul of the season Tuesday, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension. There was a chance the NBA could have rescinded the technical Wednesday, but Rivers said it didn't matter. Redick was always going to get the extra rest. Rivers added that Paul will play but that he's not sure how much. He didn't mention Jordan, who has played every game this season. He leads the NBA in field goal percentage (67.6 percent) and rebounding (13.8) and will become only the third player (Wilt Chamberlain, Dwight Howard) to top the NBA in both during the same season. Jordan is up for Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Los Angeles, the NBA's highest-scoring team, already has set franchise records for overall wins (57). In the New Year, it has the NBA's second-best record behind San Antonio.
Good Week For Lillard
No matter what happens here, Damian Lillard likely will be a happy man. He signed a contract extension this week with adidas that reportedly could be worth up to $100 million over 10 years. Lillard's an excellent player and a first-time All-Star this year but that's shocking money for a guy playing in Portland. Supposedly the only two bigger shoe deals currently in the NBA are Derrick Rose with adidas -- that's looking like a huge mistake right now -- and LeBron James with Nike.
Portland was just a 33-win team a season ago and the 20-game improvement is tied for the largest in team history: The 1989-90 team went 59-23 a season after going 39-43 and reached the NBA Finals, losing in five games to the Detroit Pistons. This year's Blazers have improved in nearly every statistical category from last season, including points (106.7/97.5), rebounds (46.2/40.8), assists (23.1/21.8), field goals made per game (39.1/36.7) and 3-pointers made (9.4/8.2).
The Blazers (43-38 ATS, 45-35-1 O/U at sportsbooks) have little reason to play Lillard or fellow star LaMarcus Aldridge in this game. Houston's win Monday against San Antonio clinched the No. 4 seed for the Rockets, and they will have home-court advantage against the Blazers in their first-round playoff series. Lillard led the NBA in minutes last year and has played every game in this one as well. Coach Terry Stotts said he and his assistants would discuss at Wednesday's shootaround who would sit. He only mentioned Aldridge and backup guard Mo Williams specifically by name.
It's tied 1-1 and should L.A. win this game it would take the season series against Portland three consecutive years for the first time in team history. Aldridge is averaging 28.5 points and 6.5 rebounds this year against the Clippers. Lillard is at 17.5 ppg but also 5.0 turnovers per game. Griffin was averaging 35.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, with Paul at 27.0 points and 14.0 assists.
NBA Free Picks: Trail Blazers -3 and the over 207.5 points. The side is predicated on the belief that Oklahoma City will take care of Detroit. If not, take the Clippers, who have covered four straight road games. The over is 8-2 in the Clippers' past 10 in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 10-2-2 in the past 14 meetings in Portland.