Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers comes to town for his only regular season visit with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers won the first game this season in Los Angleles 107-104 in overtime on November 20. The Clippers are on the final game of a 4 game road trip. The Celtics are playing at home between a two game Western road trip and a 4 game Western road trip.
The Clippers won the series last season 2-0 and have won 4 straight against the Celtics and 7 of the last 10 games between them. The Celtics are 88-43 all time overall against the Clippers and 45-17 all time in Boston. This is the last game for both teams before the All Star break. The Celtics play next in Minnesota a week from Friday.
The Celtics are 3rd in the East, 2 games behind Toronto and 2.5 games ahead of Miami. They are 22-5 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 12-7 against Western Conference teams. The Clippers are 3rd in the West, 1 game behind Denver and 1.5 games ahead of Utah. They are 15-12 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 16-5 vs Eastern Conference teams. The Clippers are coming off a loss which may not be a good thing. They are 15-1 this season after a loss and have lost two games in a row only one time this season.
Jaylen Brown left Tuesday’s game against the Rockets with a calf contusion. He was already playing on two sore ankles. In spite of the 3 areas of injury, he is listed as probable for this game. He will be a game time decision. If Jaylen can’t play, Marcus Smart should get the start in his place. Robert Williams remains out with a hip injury. Patrick Beverly is out for the Clippers with a groin injury. He has missed the past 3 games with the injury. Lou Williams is expected to start in his place once again.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Jaylen Brown (ankles/calf) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Clippers Starters
Patrick Beverly (groin) out
Jaylen Brown vs Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is a tough matchup on both ends of the court. He is averaging 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He is shooting 46.6% from the field and 37.9% from beyond the arc. He is an elite 2-way player and Jaylen and/or Marcus need to work hard to beat his defense and also to defend him when he is on offense.
Gordon Hayward vs Paul George
Paul George is averaging 22.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He is shooting 42.8% from the field and 39.6% from beyond the arc. The Celtics didn’t have Gordon Hayward in the first meeting between these two teams and so this will be Gordon’s first matchup with George this season. He will need to play tough defense as George is strong and can shoot both outside and get to the basket also.
Jayson Tatum vs Marcus Morris, Sr
This is a matchup of former teammates. As we have seen many times players often go at their former teams with extra effort to beat them and I have no doubt that we will see the best of Marcus Morris in this game. He is averaging 19.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He is shooting 44.1% from the field and 43.4% from beyond the arc. Jayson will need to play hard on defense to keep Morris from having a big game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning and the Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win this game. The Clippers average 115.6 points per game (6th) and the Celtics average 112.6 points per game (12th). The Celtics will need to slow them down with defense and not get into a shoot out with them. The Celtics are 3rd with a defensive rating of 105.6 while the Clippers are 6th with a defensive rating of 106.6. The Celtics need to make defense a priority as the Clippers are a good defensive team also and it is likely defense that will determine the winner of 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 are 3rd in the league with 48 rebounds per game. The Clippers are 6th in the league with 14.6 2nd chance points. It’s important for the Celtics to win the rebounding battle to limit their extra possessions.
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. They have to be more aggressive in going to the basket and in going after loose balls and crashing the boards and running the floor. They can’t let the Clippers out work them.
Bench Play - The Clippers reserves are averaging 62.1 points per game. If Patrick Beverly (who had 14 points and 16 rebounds in the first meeting between these two teams) can’t play, that will affect their bench as Lou Williams’ 19.2 points will move into the starting lineup. But, the Celtics reserves still must take this group seriously and play well so as not to dig a hole while the starters get a rest.
Patience and Discipline - Brad Stevens preached patience and discipline before the game against the Rockets and the Celtics didn’t heed his message and allowed themselves to get frustrated from the preferential treatment given to the Rockets’ stars. They have another chance to practice that patience and discipline in this game. The Rockets are #1 in the league in free throws attempted but the Clippers are #2 in with 25.9 free throws attempted per game.
Home Game - The Celtics are coming off a tough road loss to the Rockets. They are home for one game between road trips. The Celtics need to take advantage of the comforts of home and the fact that the Clippers are playing the final game of a 4 game road trip and may be road weary. The Celtics must 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 and get the win.
Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating really is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew calls the game differently whether they call every little ticky tack foul or they let a lot of contact go and let the teams play. Some refs favor the home team and some not so much. As we saw in the Rockets game, they can also favor some superstars. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called and not let themselves get frustrated by the officiating. Scott Foster can be good or he can be very bad.
Coaching - Doc Rivers coached the Celtics for 9 years before leaving to coach the Clippers. Brad Stevens has been coach of the Celtics for the past 6 years. Both are considered to be among the best coaches in the league. This could be a chess match between the current and former coaches of the Celtics