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Portland Trail Blazers visit LA Clippers hoping to end two-game losing run

Watch Portland Trail Blazers @ LA Clippers live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Friday morning (3.30am)

Kawhi Leonard in action for the Clippers
Image: Kawhi Leonard in action for the Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers play host to the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Arena.

Live NBA: Portland @ L.A Clippers

The Blazers (3-4) have endured a disappointing opening to the season by their own high standards. After finishing third in the Western Conference in each of the last two seasons, three wins from their opening seven games is not the start they expected.

Defensive wings Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless have left for pastures new. Long-term injury absentee Jusuf Nurkic is out of the picture too. Power forward Zach will miss the next four months after shoulder surgery.

Damian Lillard prepares for a free throw 1:58
Damian Lillard drained a trio of fourth-quarter three-pointers to seal victory for the Portland Trail Blazers against the Oklahoma City Thunder

Damian Lillard has done everything possible to prevent Portland's sleepy start, averaging 31.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game while summer signing Hassan Whiteside is putting up 14.3 points, 12 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. But that hasn't been enough to prevent the Blazers from losing their last two games, including a shock defeat to the injury-riddled Golden State Warriors.

The Clippers sit fifth in Western Conference with a 5-3 record. For a team anointed title favourites before the start of the season, that record might seem a little underwhelming. However, two of those defeats came in games where Kawhi Leonard was rested and Leonard's fellow big-name summer signing Paul George has yet to take the court because of recurring shoulder issues.

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Leonard will return to the line-up after missing Wednesday night's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. In his last performance following a one-game rest, he racked up 38 points in a victory over his former team the San Antonio Spurs.

Bench stars Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell have enjoyed typically explosive starts to the season. The latter averaging 21.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game with the former 22.0 points and 5.5 assists.

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Not only did Portland win the four-game season series over LA last year, 3-1, they've also won six of their last seven games in total against the Clippers.

Last time out

Eric Paschall of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers 1:45
Highlights of the Portland Trail Blazers' road loss to the Golden State Warriors
preview image 1:41
Highlights of the Milwaukee Bucks' road win over the LA Clippers

Numbers game

111.7 - That is the Clippers offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions), a figure that ranks fourth-best in the league and is even more impressive when coupled with the fact Doc Rivers' team has played the most difficult schedule of any team so far, per basketballreference.com.

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With Leonard sitting out games, George yet to play and the difficulty of their schedule evening out over time, the Clippers' offensive efficiency could reach frightening levels by mid-season.

One to watch (Trail Blazers): CJ McCollum

Blazers guard CJ McCollum goes on the attack against Denver in Game 6
Image: Blazers guard CJ McCollum goes on the attack against Denver in Game 6

While his backcourt partner Lillard has started the season in characteristic high-scoring fashion, McCollum is yet to truly come to the party.

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The shooting guard is averaging 20.7 points per game but is taking him almost 20 shots to get those points. His field goal percentage this season (40.1) is some way short of his career mark (45.4).

One to watch (Clippers): Montrezl Harrell

Montrezl Harrell celebrates a basket during the Clippers' preseason win over Melbourne
Image: Montrezl Harrell celebrates a basket during the Clippers' preseason win over Melbourne

As mentioned above, Harrell has carried his impactful play of the 2018-19 season into the new campaign, putting up a career-high 21.1 points per game.

Harrell made his first start of season against the Bucks on Wednesday night and did not disappoint, scoring a career-high 34 points to go along with 11 rebounds and five assists.

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Look for him to fire up the home crowd with emphatic finishes at the rim and passionate celebrations.

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