Two struggling teams meet as the Celtics host the Los Angeles Clippers. The Celtics have lost 4 of their last 6 games while the Clippers have lost 5 of their last 6 games. This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Clippers pulled out a 114-111 win over the Celtics in their first meeting on December 8 in Los Angeles. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season.
The Celtics are 9th in the East and have lost their last 2 games. They are 9-6 at home and just 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are 5-8 against Western Conference teams. The Clippers are 6th in the West and have also lost their last 2 games. They are 5-7 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 5-3 against Eastern Conference teams. This is the first game of a 3 game road trip for the Clippers and it is the first game of a 4 game home stand for the Celtics.
Both teams have used 13 different starting lineups so far this season. The Clippers have had 140 player games missed due to injury and health and safety protocols. The Celtics have had 94 player games missed due to injury and safety protocols. The Celtics are 91-44 all time against the Clippers. They are 47-17 in games played in Boston. Both teams are playing short handed in this game.
Marcus Smart is once again questionable for this game due to the hand laceration that affects his ball handling. I’ve included him in the starting lineup but if he can’t play, either Payton Pritchard should get the start. His status is a game time decision. Jayson Tatum, CJ Miles, Aaron Nesmith, Bruno Fernando, Dennis Schroder, and Enes Freedom are all out due to health and safety protocols. The Celtics expect to get Josh Richardson back from the protocols for this game.
For the Clippers, Reggie Jackson, Jay Scrubb Brandon Boston, Jr, and Moses Wright are out due to health and safety protocols. Nicolas Batum is out with a sprained ankle. Paul George is out with a torn ligament in his elbow. Isaiah Hartenstein is out with an ankle injury. Kawhi Leonard has not played this season after injuring his knee in the playoffs and remains out for this game. Jason Preston is out after having surgery on his foot. The Clippers have signed James Ennis III to a 10 day contract.
Probable Celtics Starters
Marcus Smart (hand) questionable
Dennis Schroder (covid) out
Aaron Nesmith (covid) out
Bruno Fernando (covid) out
CJ Miles (covid) outEnes
Freedom (covid) out
Jayson Tatum (covid) out
Probable Clippers Starters
James Ennis III
Nicolas Batum (ankle) out
Brandon Boston, Jr (covid) out
Paul George (elbow) out
Isaiah Hartenstein (ankle) out
Reggie Jackson (covid) out
Kawhi Leonard (knee) out
Jason Preston (foot) out
Jay Scrubb (covid) out
Moses Wright (covid) out
Al Horford vs Marcus Morris, Sr
Former Celtics always seem to have big games against the Celtics. Marcus Morris, Sr put up 20 points in the first meeting between these two teams. He is averaging 14.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He is shooting 43.5% from the field and 39.0% from beyond the arc. He put up 24 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in his last game against the Nets. He will definitely be looking to be more aggressive with Paul George out and also because he is playing his former team.
Romeo Langford vs Luke Kennard
With both Jayson Tatum and Dennis Schroder out, I’m guessing that Romeo gets the start here. Kennard is averaging 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. He is shooting 43.2% from the field and 43.9% from beyond the arc. Whoever starts here needs to especially defend him well on the perimeter since he shoots very well from there.
Jaylen Brown vs Terance Mann
Mann is averaging 10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He is shooting 47.3% from the field and 37.7% from beyond the arc. Jaylen struggled somewhat against the Wolves and hopefully he will bounce back with a big game against the Clippers.
Keys to the Game
Defense - As always, defense is a key to getting a win in this game and in every game. The Clippers average 105.4 points per game while the Celtics average 108.4 points per game. The Celtics have slipped to 9th with a defensive rating of 107.6 while the Clippers are 4th with a defensive rating of 105.8. The Clippers will miss Paul George’s defense but still, their defense will likely limit the Celtics on offense in this game and so the Celtics must match their defensive effort if they hope to get the win. They can’t afford to allow a 30% shooter to shoot 63% from three again in this game.
Rebound - The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball. Much of rebounding is effort and desire. That effort and desires explains how Payton Pritchard can get 8 rebounds in a game. 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. When the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards, it often carries through to other areas of their game.
Play Hard 48 minutes -The Celtics often get off to a slow start and then have to play catch up. Other times they get off to a big lead and then take their foot off the gas and let their opponents go on a run and pass them. In the last 2 games they have collapsed in the 4th quarter allowing their opponents to pull ahead for the win. The Celtics have got to play hard and give 100% as a team for all 48 minutes with no let up.
Injuries and Covid - Both teams are playing short handed. That can’t be an excuse for less than 100% effort from each player. They can’t assume that they will win because the other team is missing key players. The Timberwolves were even more short handed than the Celtics in their last game but yet the Wolves played harder and ended up with the win.
Coaching - Tyronn Lue got his start in the coaching ranks on the Celtics when he was named the director of basketball development in 2013. He is now the head coach of the Clippers. Will he be more motivated to get a win over the team that gave him his start? The Celtics under first year coach Ime Udoka have been very inconsistent. They have the talent but just can’t seem to put it together. Can he get the best of second year head coach Tyronn Lue?
Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating always can be 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. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called and not let the officiating take away from their focus.