The LA Clippers put on a stunning opening night display to down the defending champion LA Lakers before they then knocked off the Denver Nuggets. However, with Kawhi Leonard missing, they were then routed by the Dallas Mavericks in a 124-73 blowout. Meanwhile the Portland Trail Blazers (2-1) will still be riding high after their surprising 115-107 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles .
Best Starting 5 between the Portland Trail Blazers and the LA Clippers
Kawhi Leonard is doubtful for the LA Clippers' matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, though he has practiced since suffering the injury and Coach Ty Lue said there was nothing serious to worry about.
LA Clippers fans will be hoping that Leonard returns to the starting lineup after their dismal display against the Dallas Mavericks. The Portland Trail Blazers come into the match with fewer worries, putting up an impressive team performance to overcome the LA Lakers on Monday.
Here are the best starting 5 between the LA Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, assuming Kawhi Leonard can play.
Point Guard - Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Coming off a record season, Lillard just keeps getting better. Alongside the likes of Stephen Curry, he has redefined the unfashionable shot, taking 3s from as far as the logo with ease. Lillard and CJ McCollum form one of the deadliest guard pairings in the league, and Portland Trail Blazers fans hope they can lead their team back to the Western Conference finals.
Lillard is averaging 24 points a game this season and will come up against Patrick Beverley for the LA Clippers. Beverley is a dogged defender, however he's struggled to get going on the offensive end. Lillard, meanwhile, just scored 31 points against the Lakers on the defending champions' court on Monday night and has no fear of playing in high-pressure matchups.
Shooting Guard - CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
Averaging 29 points a game so far, CJ McCollum is showing how he can be just as lethal as his front court partner, Damian Lillard. Despite not being the Portland Trail Blazers' go-to guy in the clutch, McCollum is an extremely reliable scorer. In the 2019-20 season, the shooting guard had a shooting efficiency of over 52%.
When needed, CJ McCollum has shown he can step up, especially if Lillard is injured. Against the Lakers, Rockets and Jazz, McCollum has proved his consistency and will be hoping to repeat his showing against the LA Clippers and throughout the year as the Blazers attempt to finish higher than last season's eighth seed in the West.
Small Forward - Paul George (LA Clippers)
Since moving to the guard position with the LA Clippers, Paul George has had to adapt his game. To fit into our combined starters, we have decided to place George back at the position he was most known for prior to his move to L.A.
After a disrupted season last year and a poor playoff performance, the franchise will be hoping George can return to his All-Star form. When Kawhi Leonard was ruled out of the Dallas Mavericks' game, the onus fell on George to lead the team. But, as did the rest of the LA Clippers' roster, he struggled to perform.
Along with his shooting efficiency – 66.7% this season – George is an elite defender. With the advantage of size on his side, Paul George should win this matchup over his Portland Trail Blazers' counterpart, CJ McCollum. The 30-year- old averaged 1.4 steals a game last year, and the season before he led the league with 2.2 steals per outing.
Small Forward - Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)
For the sake of the LA Clippers, they will be hoping that their superstar forward, Kawhi Leonard, is available for this matchup. Leonard is also an elite defender who has averaged 1.8 steals per game throughout his career. In the two games he has played in the 2020-21 NBA season, he has grabbed three in each.
Leonard is a player who can do it all for the LA Clippers and Coach Ty Lue will have to be careful again this season to watch his minutes on the court. The franchise's worst loss in their history to the Mavericks showed just how much the Clippers depend on Leonard.
In the playoffs last season, Leonard willed his side throughout but was ultimately unable to overcome a heroic Denver Nuggets' comeback. Partnered with a rejuvenated Paul George and former teammate Serge Ibaka, Leonard could have his best season to date.
Center - Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers)
Nurkic showed at the tail end of last season just how much the Portland Trail Blazers had missed him. The center was sidelined for an entire year after breaking his leg in 2019 against the Brooklyn Nets, but will be ready to prove his ability among the best once again.
Nurkic has started solidly, not spectacularly, this year, though this is expected after such a long layoff. Nurkic has thus far faced experienced big men in Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic and Marc Gasol this season, but will be hoping to have more luck against the rotating partnership of Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac of the LA Clippers.Published 30 Dec 2020, 06:05 IST