The Celtics close out their 4 game road trip with a game against Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. This is the second and final game between these two teams this season. The Clippers beat the Celtics 123-112 in Boston on February 9. The Clippers came from 28 down, outscoring the Celtics 83-44 in the final 28 minutes to get the win. That was the biggest comeback win in Clippers franchise history.
The Clippers were debuting several new players in that game after a flurry of moves at the trade deadline. It was thought at the time that the Clippers were going to tank since trading their high scorer for rookies. But, the opposite has happened. In the games since that game, their starting 5 ranks 4th in offensive efficiency and 5th in defensive efficiency.
The Celtics remain in 5th place in the East, 1 game behind both Philadelphia and Indiana who are tied for 3rd with Philly holding the tie breaker over the Pacers. The Celtics are 17-16 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 13-13 vs Western Conference teams and are looking for their 4th straight win.
The Clippers are 7th in the West, tied with the Jazz, who hold the tie breaker. They are half a game ahead of the Spurs, who are in 8th place. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are looking for their 5th straight win. They are 19-12 at home and 13-9 vs Eastern Conference teams.
Jayson Tatum is out for this game with right shoulder soreness. At this time it is unknown who will start in his place. Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Aron Baynes are the most likely candidates. I’m going to guess that Aron Baynes will move into the starting lineup with Al Horford moving over to guard Gallinari and Morris moving to small forward. I’m probably wrong, but that seems to be the best matchups and won’t disturb the chemistry on the second unit as much.
For the Clippers, Wilson Chandler had been out with a quad injury and was cleared to play on Friday vs the Thunder but didn’t get into the game. He may or may not play in this game and if he does, will likely be limited. Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) has been out since the 4th game of the season and is questionable for this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jayson Tatum (shoulder) out
Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
Wilson Chandler (quad) probable
Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) questionable
Two Way Players
Al Horford vs Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari is the second highest scorer on the team. He is averaging 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He is shooting 42.9% from beyond the arc. I’m just guessing that Brad will move Al over to power forward for this matchup but if not, Marcus Morris will be the one who has to stay with Gallinari. Either way, it definitely isn’t a good idea to leave him open behind the arc.
Terry Rozier vs Lou Williams
Williams has made a career of being the best sixth man in the league. He is the Clippers leading scorer, averaging 20.2 points, 3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists and is coming off a 40 point effort in their last game. He is averaging the 2nd most points of any reserve in the past 25 years, second only to his own 21.9 points last season. He is 2nd only to James Harden in 4th quarter scoring. He is a threat to score on every possession and so the Celtics will need to pay special attention to him on defense.
Jaylen Brown vs Montrezl Harrell
Two of the Clippers top 3 scorers come off the bench. Harrell is averaging 16.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 blocks for the Clippers off the bench. He scored 21 points in their first game against the Celtics. Jaylen and the rest of the Celtics reserves will have their hands full and will need to play tough defense to keep them from having a big game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games and the Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win this game. The Clippers average 114.2 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 good so far on this road trip and they need to continue to make defense a 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 have got to put out the extra effort to win the rebounding battle and if they do, that effort will likely translate to the rest of their game.
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. The Celtics let the Clippers outwork them in the first game and they can’t afford to do that again in this game. Many of their losses are due to a lack of energy and effort. They always seem to get their opponents best efforts and they simply must work harder to get a win.
Play 48 Minutes - In the first meeting between these two teams, the Celtics got off to a good start, going up 28 points on the Clippers. But then, they let up and went through a scoring drought and at the same time stopped playing defense, letting the Clippers outscore them 83-44 the rest of the way. The Celtics must play hard on both ends of the court for the whole 48 minutes. No let up.
Bench Play - The Clippers reserves lead the NBA with 52.8 points per game. This is the highest scoring for a reserves unit in over 30 years. Clippers reserves have scored over 80 points 4 times this season. The Celtics reserves must take this group seriously and play well on both ends of the court and especially on defense.
Road Fatigue - The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 4 game road trip. It would be easy to let up, feeling that the trip is already a success with 3 victories so far. The final game is usually the hardest as they look forward to getting back home again. Fatigue could also become a factor for the Celtics but hopefully their depth will allow them to have enough in the tank to get the win.
Old Habits Die Hard - The Celtics have played team ball and played the right way for the first 3 games of this road trip. They appear to have turned the corner and have been playing like we expected them to all season. However, old habits die hard and we have thought that they turned the corner before only to see them go back to playing hero ball and playing without energy. Can they keep playing with grit and heart and playing team ball?
Bad Officiating - Officiating can always be a factor, but especially when Scott Foster is one of those referees. Scott Foster as lead referee is always worrisome. He was voted the worst ref in the league by players and coaches in a survey done by the LA Times. Foster was part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes.