Tough-minded Clippers set for showdown with Trail Blazers

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PORTLAND, Oregon -- The Los Angeles Clippers have none of the "Lob City" star power they've had in recent seasons with players such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. What they have this season, though, is a group of tough-minded guys who, at least thus far, have shown plenty of competitiveness and fight.

"If you were picking teams on the blacktop, we have a lot of guys that you would pick," Coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the Clippers' 112-107 overtime victory over Memphis Friday at Staples Center. "Guys who grew up there know you don't always pick the best guys. You pick the guys you can keep playing the next game and the next game with."

The Clippers (12-6) have won six of their last seven heading into Sunday night's matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center.

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The Clippers and Trail Blazers (12-7) are among nine teams within two games of each other, all battling for the best record in the Western Conference.

Forwards Tobias Harris (20.8) and Danilo Gallinari (18.6) and reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams (18.6) are typically the big scorers, but the Clippers have 11 players who average at least five points a game.

"We know as a team we need each other, so we're (feeding) off each other out there on the floor," Harris said. "Guys want to make plays for each other. The better someone else is playing or the better someone else is shooting, that helps myself. That helps other guys on the floor, so we know we're pulling each other along."

"All of my teammates are superstars," Gallinari said. ?To be honest, that's the way that I see them. That's the way that we see each other, and that's why we have a lot of confidence in ourselves. Doc gives us a lot of confidence, and when a player has a lot of confidence, the sky's the limit."

The Blazers' confidence level slipped a bit during a recent road trip in which they went 2-4, finishing with blowout losses to Milwaukee (143-100) and Golden State (125-97).

"We didn't look too good the last two games," Portland center Jusuf Nurkic told the media. "That's just not who we are, who we believe we are. Before the road trip, we felt pretty good about ourselves.

"Our offense isn't clicking because of our defense. We need to play defense. It's a good wakeup for us. (The Bucks and Warriors) overworked us, which is something we can't be proud of."

Portland's defensive efficiency rating has slipped from the top 10 in the NBA to a tie for 16th.

"When you aren't getting stops, you aren't pushing the ball back at teams," Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said. "When you're taking it out of the net every time, you're playing against a set defense and you're calling a play every time. (The opposing) bench is echoing the call every time, trying to figure out what we're calling. It's easier to stop teams that way as opposed to the ball coming downhill at you."

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