The Celtics come off a big loss at the hands of the Lakers and the next night face the Clippers. Since both the Lakers and Clippers play in the same arena, at least they didn’t have to travel overnight. The Celtics were 2-0 last season vs the Clippers. The Celtics are 91-43 all time against the Clippers and 44-26 when playing them in Los Angeles. This is the first of 2 regular season games between these two teams. They will face each other again on December 29 in Boston.
This is the first game of a 3 game home stand for the Clippers. They last played on Monday when they beat the Trail Blazers in Portland. The Celtics are playing in the second straight back to back set. They played the Jazz and Trail Blazers back to back and then had 2 days off and faced the Lakers and now the Clippers back to back. The Celtics are 4-1 in on the second night of back to back games. They are 3-0 when both games are on the road.
The Celtics are playing in the 4th game of their 5 game road trip. After this game they will have one day off and then play the Suns in Phoenix. That will be the toughest game of the trip as the Suns are playing very well. They are 20-4 on the season and are 11-2 at home.
The Eastern Conference is so close that the Celtics loss to the Lakers dropped them from 6th place all the way down to 10th place. They are 7-8 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 5-4 against Western Conference teams. The Clippers, who have the same record as the Celtics, are 5th in the West, The Clippers are 9-7 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 3-2 against Eastern Conference teams. Both teams have been very inconsistent this season.
Jaylen Brown missed his 3rd straight game on Tuesday night when the Celtics played the Lakers. Ime Udoka said that he had a good practice on Tuesday, but they continue to be cautious with him as he looks to come back from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for 8 games earlier in the season. He is questionable for this game. Jabari Parker (illness) and Bruno Fernando (back spasms) also missed Tuesday’s game and are questionable for this game. The status of all three players is listed as a game time decision.
For the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard suffered a partially torn ACL during the NBA playoffs. He has not played yet this season as he recovers from off season surgery. There hasn’t been a timeline as to when he might return. Nicolas Batum is questionable as he works on conditioning after being out with Covid. If he does play, it will likely be on a minutes restriction. Jason Preston is out after having foot surgery in October.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) questionable
Jabari Parker (illness) questionable
Bruno Fernando (back) questionable
Probable Clippers Starters
Brandon Boston, Jr
Kawhi Leonard (knee) out
Jason Preston (knee) out
Nicolas Batum (conditioning) questionable
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Paul George
Paul George is leading the Clippers with 25.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.8 steals. He is shooting 41.7% from the field and 31.8% from beyond the arc. He is always a threat to score and so the Celtics need to stay with him both inside and on the perimeter. Jayson Tatum has been playing very well in recent games and the Celtics will need him to continue to play well on both ends of the court in order to win this game.
Marcus Smart vs Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson is averaging 17.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. He is shooting 39.6% from the field and 32.9% from beyond the arc. Jackson can get hot and so the Celtics need to pay attention to him on defense. The Celtics will need Marcus Smart’s typical defense and Marcus Smart plays in this game.
Al Horford vs Marcus Morris, Sr.
Marcus Morris is averaging 11.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He is shooting 40.7% from the field and 38.6% from beyond the arc. I’m sure he would love to get a win over his former team and so we will likely see extra effort from him in this game to do so.
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 105.7 points per game while the Celtics average 108.9 points per game. The Celtics have slipped to 9th with a defensive rating of 106.5 while the Clippers are 3rd with a defensive rating of 104.5. The Celtics allowed the Lakers to shoot 51.6% from the field and they simply must do better on defense if they hope to beat the Clippers. The Clippers defense will likely limit the Celtics on offense in this game and so the Celtics must match their defensive effort if they hope to limit the Clippers offense enough to get the win.
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. When the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards, it often carries through to other areas of their game. The Celtics were out-rebounded 51-34 by the Lakers and that could point to a lack of effort on their part. The Celtics have to work harder than the Clippers to grab rebounds.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball but they also need to make very careful passes. They need to avoid careless passes and they need to avoid dribbling out of control. The Clippers average 16.4 points off turnovers per game and if the Celtics get sloppy in the least, the Clippers will make them pay.
Energy and Effort - The Celtics have to come out with energy and have to play harder than the Clippers from the opening tip until the final buzzer. 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 They will get the Clippers best effort and so they simply must work harder to get a win.
Focus - The Celtics must stay focused for all 48 minutes. There seem to be stretches during most every game where the Celtics lose focus and turn the ball over and miss easy shots. They have to stay focused and not let up and allow the Clippers to get easy baskets from Celtics sloppiness. The Clippers average 16.4 points off turnovers and so the Celtics can’t afford to lose focus and miss easy shots and turn the ball over.
Road Fatigue - The Celtics are playing in the fourth game of a 5 game road trip and they are playing on the second night of back to back games. They have also been playing short handed without Jaylen in the 3 games so far and without Al and Romeo in one of them. Fatigue could become a factor for the Celtics but hopefully their depth will allow them to have enough in the tank to get 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 started out slowly but have been playing very well in recent games as they get used to Udoka’s system on both offense and defense. Can he get the best of second year 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.