Should the Portland Trail Blazers win this series versus the Los Angeles Clippers the narrative will be about who isn’t playing instead of who stepped up. The spotlight should be on the playmaking abilities of Mason Plumlee who is dropping dimes for his teammates. Prior to the injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Blazers were on track to even the series with that adjustment.
The Clippers are aggressively trapping every pick-and-roll with Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum and forcing the other Blazers to make plays. It worked for the first two games but not lately. The Blazers have made an adjustment, turning to Plumlee to make plays and he has delivered. In their two wins he is averaging 9.5 assists compared to his 3.9 assists average during the regular season.
In the plays below, the guards accept the trap and find Plumlee in a short roll to the free throw line. In those situations, the Blazers have a 4 on 3 advantage and the Clippers defense is in a full scramble mode. Plumlee finds Al-Farouq Aminu for a wing three and on the baseline for a dunk down the stretch of game four.
If Plumlee can continue his Draymond Green imitation this will force Doc Rivers into a tough decision. Either continue to trap the pick-and-rolls and hope Plumlee can’t continue to carve up the defense or call off the trap and risk freeing up Lillard and McCollum to attack the defense.
There is no question the injuries to Paul and Griffin have definitely swung the series in the Blazers’ favor but Plumlee’s playmaking was causing troubles before that. The focus has to get back to who’s playing on the court. On the court right now, Plumlee is not only playing but he is killing the Clippers.