Blazers, Clippers tangle in Western Conference clash

( - A heavyweight battle between Western Conference opponents is on tap Wednesday in the City of Angels, as the Los Angeles Clippers entertain the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.

This could be a possible playoff preview with the Blazers currently a half- game ahead of the Clippers for the fourth seed in the West.

Los Angeles and Portland have both won three in a row, and the Clippers are back on familiar ground after a four-game road trip (3-1). The Clippers closed the sojourn with a 110-105 victory at Minnesota on Monday and were led by Chris Paul's 26 points and 14 assists.

J.J. Redick scored 18 points, DeAndre Jordan added 12 to go along with 18 rebounds, and Austin Rivers ended with 13 points in the win. Los Angeles made 47.8 percent of its shots and outscored the Timberwolves, 24-18, in the fourth quarter.

"This is the hardest of the three (wins). Considering the injuries, the back- to-back, the last game of a road trip... (I) was very concerned all day about this game," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.

One injury in particular is the elbow issue of All-Star forward Blake Griffin. Griffin has been sidelined prior to the All-Star break and underwent a procedure to remove a staph infection from his right elbow. Griffin is expected to return some time this week.

"I know he's running and sweating and going full-tilt now," Rivers said of Griffin, who is averaging 22.5 ppg. "That's good. I'm not sure what that means, not being there, but I know he's working, and that's all you can hope for. It's a good sign."

Clippers forward Matt Barnes missed Monday's game against Minnesota with a hamstring injury suffered in Sunday's win at Chicago and is doubtful. The defensive presence is averaging 9.6 points. Top reserve Jamal Crawford (16.4 ppg) is questionable Wednesday with a balky calf.

The Clippers are 23-8 at home and have a tough road test ahead Sunday against the Golden State Warriors.

Portland will try to push its winning streak to four games and is coming off a 110-99 road victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points and 15 rebounds for his third straight double- double and 30th of the season. Aldridge is 10 double-doubles away from matching his most double-doubles in a single season (40, 2013-14) and is posting 23.6 points and 11.6 rebounds in his last 13 games.

Damian Lillard scored a game-high 31 points with seven assists, while Wesley Matthews added 17 points for the Blazers, who have won seven of 10 games and are 31-5 when scoring 100 or more points. The Blazers have a 30-7 mark when holding teams under 100 points.

"The last two or three games, I've felt really good out there," said Lillard. "It's time to win. It's time to play winning basketball."

Portland is 14-13 on the road and will play three of their next four games in Rip City.

Wednesday's game between the Blazers and Clippers will feature two of the more prominent big men in Jordan and Aldridge. Center Robin Lopez gives Portland the advantage because Griffin is still absent and Spencer Hawes is mediocre at best inside.

The Clippers are averaging 106.6 ppg and the Blazers are scoring at a 102.5 ppg clip. Los Angeles has beaten Portland twice this season and the two powers will collide again April 1 in the Rose City. The Clippers have prevailed eight times in the past 11 games in this series.

Portland is winless in the last six games as the guest in this series.