Boston Celtics (40-23) at Los Angeles Clippers (37-25)
Monday, March 6, 2017
10:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #64, Road Game #34
TV: TNT, CSNNE, Prime Ticket
Radio: 100.7 WZLX, AM570 LA Sports
Referees: Tom Washington, Bennie Adams, Mark Ayotte
The Celtics come off a heartbreaking loss to the Phoenix Suns to take on the Los Angeles Clippers for the second and final time this season. The Celtics won the first meeting in Boston 107-102 in an emotional game as Paul Pierce played his last game at the TD Garden. They were missing Chris Paul in that game but he is back for the Clippers now.
The schedule makers didn't do the Celtics any favors when they scheduled this trip. They played the Lakers at the Staples Center on Friday and instead of staying in LA to play the Clippers in the same building, they scheduled a trip to Phoenix for Sunday and a turn around to play the Clippers on Monday back at the Staples Center.
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. The short handed Celtics lost to the Suns on Sunday as Tyler Ulis hit a last second shot to give the Suns the win. The Celtics are 9-5 on the second night of back to back games. This is their first back to back set where both games are on the road.
Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games. Since the All Star break, the Celtics are 3-3. The Clippers are 2-4 since the break. Both teams have dealt with injuries. The Celtics were finally healthy for a couple of games and then injuries hit once again. The Clippers finally got Chris Paul back and are mostly healthy now. The Celtics are 19-14 on the road while the Clippers are 19-10 at home.
Avery Bradley missed the game against the Suns with a sore hamstring but it sounded like it was mostly precautionary and Avery said that he planned to play in this game. Whether the training staff lets him play remains to be seen. If Avery can't play, expect Jaylen Brown to start in his place.
Al Horford also missed the game against the Suns. He reportedly sprained his elbow going for a block against the LA Lakers on Friday night. There was no timetable given for his return but it wasn't considered to be serious so hopefully he will return soon. They could really use him in this game against Blake Griffin. If he can't play, Jonas Jerebko will more than likely get the start once again. Diamond Stone is questionable for the Clippers with a knee injury.
Al Horford and Avery Bradley are both listed as game time decisions for this game. However, the lineup that started against the Suns proved to be a very good choice. Thomas, Brown, Crowder, Jerebko and Johnson played a team-high 15 minutes with an impressive 132.6 Offensive Rating, 31.2 Net Rating and 56.3 Rebound percentage. This lineup has played just 40 minutes together but has been better than any other 5 player lineup in the league in those minutes. I don't expect them to continue starting if either Avery or Al return, but they should see some minutes together at times during the game.
While not as emotional as Paul Pierce's final game in the Garden, this should be an emotional game for The Truth as he faces the team that he played with for 15 seasons for the final time. I imagine that Doc Rivers will encourage the Clippers to beat his former team. It can't sit will with him that the team that he left for a contender because he didn't want to go through a rebuild has a better record than his current team.
The Celtics dropped to 3 games behind the idle Cavaliers. Washington scored a 1 point win over the Magic, who led most of the game, to move to within 2 games of the Celtics. The idle Raptors moved to 3 games behind the Celtics. Atlanta is 5 games behind the Celtics.
The Cavaliers play at Miami, the team that beat them by 28 points in Cleveland on Friday. The Hawks host the Golden State Warriors. The Wizards and Raptors are off on Monday night.
Probable Starting Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs Chris Paul
Avery Bradley vs JJ Redick
Jae Crowder vs Luc Mbah a Moute
Jonas Jerebko vs Blake Griffin
Amir Johnson vs DeAndre Jordan
Avery Bradley (hamstring) probable
Al Horford (elbow) questionable
Brice Johnson (knee) questionable
Jonas Jerebko vs Blake Griffin
Griffin is averaging 22.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. He is very athletic and is always a threat to score and to grab rebounds for second chance points. The Celtics need to keep him off the boards and must stay with him on defense to keep him from having a big game.
Griffin is shooting 44% from beyond the arc in his last 10 games and so it will be important to cover him on the three point line as well as driving to the basket.
Isaiah Thomas vs Chris Paul
Chris Paul missed the first meeting between these two teams but should be good to go for this one. He is averaging 17.5 points, 9.7 assists, and 2.2 steals per game. This is another team with tough back courts to defend. Expect Marcus, Avery, Jaylen or Jae to try to keep Chris Paul in check if he begins to have a big game.
Avery Bradley vs JJ Redick
Hopefully Avery will be good to go because his defense will be needed to keep Redick from having a big game. He is averaging 14.8 points, and shooting 43.7% from the field and 41.6% from beyond the arc. It will be key to keep a good defender on him at all times.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games and the Celtics need to play tough team defense. The Clippers average 107.9 points per game and so the Celtics will need to slow them down and not get into a shoot out with them. The Celtics defense has been up and down this season but they will need to make it a priority in this game.
Rebound - The Celtics can't score if they don't have the ball. Much of rebounding is effort and desire and so the Celtics must put out the extra effort on the boards to give themselves extra possessions as well as to limit the Clippers fast break opportunities and second chance points. The Clippers will easily turn rebounds into points. The Clippers average 43.3 rebounds per game while the Celtics average 41.4 rebounds per game. They have to put in the work to win the battle of the boards.
Energy and Effort - The Celtics have to come out with energy and have to play harder than the Clippers. 100% effort from every Celtic will be needed to get a win in this one, especially if either Bradley or Horford or both can't play. They have to be the more aggressive team and be the team that wants it more. The Celtics will have to play harder and with more effort.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball to find the open man but they need to make careful passes and not turn the ball over. At times the Celtics seem to lose focus and get careless and turn the ball over several times in a row. The Clippers will turn those miscues into points on the other end.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics seem to play very well at times, sometimes starting off strong and sometimes finishing strong. But then at other times, they seem to fade away after a fast start or they start out sluggish and have to spend the rest of the game playing catch up. They have to make an effort to play hard and keep their focus from the starting tip until the final buzzer.
Focus on the Road- The Celtics are playing the 3rd game of a tough 5 game road trip. They are 1-1 so far after an easy win over the Lakers and a heartbreaking loss to the Suns. They have the Golden State Warriors coming up on Wednesday but they can't afford to look ahead. They have to focus on the game at hand and block out all the distractions of playing on the road.
Fatigue - This is the Celtics 3rd game in 4 nights and they are playing on the road. The Celtics have been good on the second night of back to back games, but between the tough game last night and travel from LA to Phoenix and back to LA, they may show some signs of fatigue. They have to reach down and find an extra gear to play strong throughout the game, especially down the stretch.
Officiating - The officiating is an x factor for every game. Every officiating crew calls games differently. Some call every little foul making it difficult to get any rhythm and some let the teams play. Some refs have an agenda and call the game for or against a particular team or player. And there are always star calls no matter who the referees are. Expect Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to get their share of those. Regardless of how the game is called, the Celtics need to play through it and keep their focus.