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Clippers-Trail Blazers Preview

Apr 22, 2016 - 6:12 PM The Los Angeles Clippers may be known for alley-oops and offensive highlights, but their bench and defensive prowess are making a difference in this series.

Though they've been largely neutralized after leading the Portland Trail Blazers into the postseason, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum hope to find their rhythm as the series shifts to a more comfortable setting at the Moda Center.

After putting up one of the NBA's best home records over the final three months, the Blazers hope to avoid facing a third consecutive 3-0 series deficit Saturday night.

Los Angeles' Lob City attack ranked sixth in offensive rating at 106.5 during the regular season, though the well-rounded club also finished second in field-goal percentage defense at 43.4 and fifth with 38 bench points per game.

Those strengths have been more than glaring in this best-of-seven first round series as the Clippers held the Blazers to 88 points per game - well below their 105.1 season average - on 36.8 percent shooting in their two wins at Staples Center.

They also outscored them 43-10 off the bench in Wednesday's 102-81 victory. Jamal Crawford, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, led the unit with 11 points, while Jeff Green added 10, Austin Rivers scored nine and Cole Aldrich had eight with eight rebounds in the team's biggest bench-scoring advantage since at least 1993-94.

"One thing about our bench, what they've been doing in this series is that if we come out of the game up six, when we go back in the game, we may be up 10 or up 12," point guard Chris Paul told the team's official website. "We just need those guys to keep playing with that confidence, and that's why we're a team."

Not only has Paul totaled 43 points and 16 assists in the two games, but he's also helped contain Rip City's high-scoring backcourt. Lillard has scored 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting when up against Paul, while McCollum is 0 for 4 in their matchups.

"(Coach Doc Rivers) said he's going to need me on the defensive end more than anything, so that's what I'm trying to do," Paul added.

DeAndre Jordan is also wreaking havoc both inside and out after finding himself in front of Lillard and McCollum, who have shot 5 for 17 in those situations. Jordan has totaled 30 rebounds and seven blocks, though he's likely to keep getting intentionally fouled after hitting just 9 for 24 from the foul line.

Lillard has gone 13 for 39 from the field and 3 for 14 from 3-point range, while McCollum is averaging 12.5 points - far under the 20.8 season average that earned him the NBA's Most Improved Player award - on 9-of-28 shooting.

They're hoping to get right at home, where Portland's 18-3 record since Jan. 23 tied for the league's third-best behind San Antonio and Golden State. The Blazers also posted the NBA's third-highest home scoring average over that span at 111.9.

Portland would like to avoid repeating recent history after trailing 3-0 to Memphis before winning its only game in last year's first round. Two years ago, the club went down 3-0 to San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals before winning once.

"They had their two home games and they handled their business, and now we're going to have two home games," Lillard said. "We're a really good home team, and we'll see how it goes from here on."

Blake Griffin had 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting Wednesday, but the Clippers improved to 7-0 with him back in their lineup after he missed 45 games with hand and quad issues. Griffin says they have to stay focused if they hope to take a commanding lead with a sixth straight win in this series.

"I don't think I've ever won a series that wasn't a Game 7, so that's kind of the next step, is closing out a series."