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Celtics host Doc Rivers and the Clippers in last game before break

The Celtics welcome former Celtics coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers for the second and final meeting between these two teams this season.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers brings his Los Angeles Clippers to Boston for their one and only visit to TD Garden this season. The Celtics beat the Clippers 113-102 in their only visit to the Staples Center on January 24. The Clippers had a lot of injuries in that game and they also made a big trade at the deadline and so their starting 5 is completely different than the one the Celtics faced in January.

The Clippers have won 6 of their last 8 games and had the 3rd best record in the league in the month of January. They are coming off a win while the Celtics have lost 2 straight and 3 of their last 4 games. Since 2013-14, the Clippers are 6-3 versus the Celtics. These two teams have split their last 4 games 2-2.

Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 21-10 at home and 15-5 vs Western Conference teams. The Clippers are 13-14 on the road and they are 9-10 vs Eastern Conference teams. The Clippers sit in 9th place in the West just half a game behind the Pelicans, who are 8th. The Celtics have slipped out of first place and sit 1 game behind the Raptors, who have won their last 6 games.

The Celtics will once again face former Celtic Avery Bradley, who was traded to the Clippers from the Pistons when Blake Griffin was traded to the Pistons. Avery should get a nice welcome from the fans since he was always a good Celtic and has always spoken well of the Celtics since he was traded. He also tends to come up big against the Celtics so they need to be ready for him.

Marcus Smart (hand), Shane Larkin, and Gordon Hayward (ankle) are once again listed out for the Celtics. Smart is expected back after All Star Weekend. Gordon Hayward is expected to start traveling with the team in March but isn’t expected to return this season. Patrick Beverley (knee) and Jawun Evans (groin) are out for the Clippers.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Daniel Theis
Guerschon Yabusele
Terry Rozier
Greg Monroe
Marcus Morris

Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Shane Larkin (knee) out
Marcus Smart (hand) out

Two Way Players
Kadeem Allen
Jabari Bird

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Clippers Starters

Clippers Reserves
Sam Dekker
Montezl Harrell
Wesley Johnson
Boban Marjanovic
Milos Teodosic
Sindarius Thornwell
Tyrone Wallace
CJ Williams
Lou Williams

Patrick Beverley (knee) out
Jawun Evans (groin) out

Head Coach
Doc Rivers

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Tobias Harris
Harris came over to the Clippers from the Pistons in the trade for Blake Griffin. He is averaging 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. He is shooting 39.9% from beyond the arc and 44.9% from the field. Tatum is going to need to clamp down on defense to keep Harris from having a big game.

Aron Baynes vs DeAndre Jordan
Jordan is a tough matchup. In the Celtics win in January, Jordan was one of the few Clippers who played well. He finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Baynes will especially need to keep Jordan off the boards. Brad could start Morris or Monroe, but Baynes seems like the better matchup for Jordan.

Honorable Mention
Terry Rozier vs Lou Williams
Williams is a candidate for 6th man of the year. He is averaging 23.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. He is shooting 38.1% from beyond the arc. He is the most dangerous offensive player on the Clippers at the moment. The Celtics must slow him down if they want to get a win. The Celtics had hoped to lure Lou Williams to Boston at the trade deadline but the Clippers ended up signing him to an extension and taking him off the market.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games and the Celtics need to play tough team defense. The Clippers average 107.6 points per game and so the Celtics will need to slow them down and not get into a shoot out with them. The Celtics have let their defense slip in recent games and if they want to win this game, they have to get back to making defense their priority.

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 Celtics can’t allow the Clippers to beat them to the boards because they will easily turn rebounds into points. The Clippers average 49.5 points in the paint (3rd) and 13.3 second chance points (8th). The Celtics have to limit the Clippers in those two areas by crashing 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. They have to be the more aggressive team and be the team that wants it more. In the Celtics 2 game losing streak, they have allowed their opponents to play with more energy and more effort than them. The Celtics will have to play harder and with more effort if they want to end this losing streak.

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 - The Celtics are playing in their final game before the All Star break. Hopefully they will stay focused on this game and not look ahead to the upcoming break. They have to focus on every play and every possession. Part of their problems lately seem to be due to a lack of effort and focus.

Home Game - The Celtics are coming off a home loss to the Cavaliers. They didn’t give the home crowd much to get excited about in that one. The Celtics need to come out and play hard and the home crowd needs to get behind them and give them the boost they need to play even harder. It would be great to go into the break on a winning note.

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