Clippers-Trail Blazers Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- It's uncertain when Chris Paul will return.
That leaves plenty of questions about how the Los Angeles Clippers are going to improve their offense.
Paul is likely to miss a third consecutive game Saturday night when the Pacific Division leaders begin a home-and-home set with the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden.
Paul played last Saturday and Monday after missing Los Angeles' sweep of a three-game trip because of a bruised right kneecap, but the All-Star point guard has not been able to go the last two games. He could also miss Portland's visit to Los Angeles on Sunday.
The Clippers (32-12) are scoring 101.2 points per game, but they've been held to fewer than 100 in a season-high five straight following Thursday's 93-88 loss at lowly Phoenix. Los Angeles shot 39.8 percent as it opened a stretch of 10 of 11 on the road with its third loss in a row.
"Our offense was stagnant," said All-Star forward Blake Griffin, whose 12 points were about six below his season average. "Our defense wasn't great. We did a poor job and it starts with me. I have to do a better job of setting the tone early and being a leader out there, especially with Chris not out there."
Griffin is expected to be there Saturday despite re-injuring his ankle early in the Phoenix loss but playing 36 minutes. He had fewer than 10 field-goal attempts for just the fifth time all season and went 2 for 8 at the free-throw line.
The Clippers dropped a season-high four in a row Nov. 21-26 but followed with a franchise-record 17-game win streak. They had won 24 of 27 before this three-game skid.
Eric Bledsoe has started the past two games at point guard but has totaled seven assists, well below Paul's 9.7 season average which ranks second in the NBA.
Los Angeles will try to get back on track in its second trip to Portland this season. Led by former Blazer Jamal Crawford's 25 points along with 21 apiece from Paul and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers won 103-90 on Nov. 8 to improve to 7-26 at the Rose Garden.
Los Angeles can win three straight there for the first time.
Portland (21-21) is closing a five-game homestand after ending a season-high six-game slide with Wednesday's 100-80 victory over Indiana. It was a much-needed blowout win for the Blazers, who had played in a franchise-record 10 consecutive games decided by six points or fewer.
"It was refreshing, especially since we were on the good side of it," coach Terry Stotts said.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and received more good news Thursday, getting named an All-Star reserve for the second straight season. He's averaging 20.7 points and 8.8 boards.
"I was just trying to win," Aldridge said Wednesday when asked if he was distracted by the All-Star announcement.
Crawford won't be joining Aldridge on the West squad next month in Houston - much to his and his teammates' disappointment - but his 16.7 points per game rank first among NBA reserves.
The Clippers' bench leads the league with 41.5 points per game. Portland's backups are averaging an NBA-worst 16.5.
Updated January 25, 2013