Trail Blazers-Clippers Preview
A return home has the Los Angeles Clippers winning again, and already looking toward the playoffs.
The Portland Trail Blazers are just trying to win back-to-back games for the first time in over two months.
The Clippers look to extend their home winning streak to six games by taking a season series from the Trail Blazers for the first time in five years Friday night.
Los Angeles (29-21) has won the first three of this five-game homestand after an 0-3 road trip put coach Vinny Del Negro on the hot seat. A vote of confidence from owner Donald Sterling, combined with a return home appears to have the Clippers headed in the right direction.
"Winning is the best medicine," All-Star forward Blake Griffin said. "We lost three games in a row before we came home, and the world was about to fall apart for us. But we're doing a better job of not letting teams fight back into it and making it harder on ourselves - at least we have the last three games.
"We're trying to finish out games and go to the playoffs on the right foot."
Los Angeles is fourth in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the Pacific Division lead.
The Clippers pulled closer to their much more storied co-tenant Wednesday, beating Phoenix 103-86 behind 27 points and 14 rebounds from Griffin.
Chris Paul, who added 15 points and 15 assists, is wary of looking too far ahead.
"There's a lot of season left," said Paul, who is averaging 12.7 assists in the last three games. "Even though there's only 16 games to go, a lot can happen, so we're just going to keep trying to stay the course."
Los Angeles has won two of three season meetings with Portland, putting the club in position to take the season series for the first time since 2006-07.
Griffin had 21 points and 14 boards in a 74-71 road victory over the Blazers on Feb. 16.
Portland (24-27) is seeking consecutive wins for the first time since Jan. 23-24. The team has failed on 12 occasions since then to accomplish the feat, and is presented with the opportunity again after beating New Orleans 99-93 on Thursday.
LaMarcus Aldridge sparked that victory with 25 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, hours after he underwent an MRI on his sore right hip that showed no damage.
"It's something that has come with the short season and playing hard and getting knocked down out there," the All-Star forward said. "I'm just playing through it."
The Blazers are going to need him to since he averages team highs of 21.4 points and 8.1 rebounds. They're trying to make up a three-game deficit on Utah, Houston and Denver, which are tied for the final two playoff spots in the conference.
Aldridge missed the last meeting with the Clippers due to a sprained left ankle. He totaled 37 points and 16 boards over the previous two meetings, and will likely find himself matched up opposite Griffin.