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Boston Celtics (21-6) at Los Angeles Clippers (15-13) Game #28

The Celtics look to bounce back as they take on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Los Angeles Clippers v Boston Celtics Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The Celtics continue their road trip as they take on the Los Angeles Clippers. This is the first of two games between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Boston on December 29. The Clippers won the series between them 2-0 last season, winning in LA and in Boston. The Celtics are 91-45 all time overall against the Clippers and they are 44-28 all time in LA.

The Clippers are playing in the first game at home after returning from a 4 game road trip at Washington on Saturday. This game is the first of a 5 game home stand for them. The Celtics are playing in the 5th game of a 6 game road trip and they will conclude the trip on Tuesday in the same arena against the LA Lakers. They will return home for a 7 game home stand that begins on Friday.

The Celtics have been playing very well this season with the best record in the league at 21-6. They are coming off a very disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of the Finals. Jayson Tatum especially struggled against the Warriors, shooting 28.6% from the field and 22.2% from beyond the arc and 57.1% on free throws. I expect a much better effort from Tatum and the Celtics in this one. Giannis and the Bucks struggled against the Rockets in their last game also, keeping the Celtics lead on the 2nd place team at 1.5 games.

The Celtics remain in first place in the East. They are 10-4 on the road, after their loss to the Warriors on this trip, and 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 7-1 against Western Conference teams. They lost their last game but won the first 3 games on this trip. The Clippers are 7th in the West, 4 games behind first place New Orleans. They are 7-6 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. Many of their struggles are the result of multiple injuries this season but they appear to be mostly healthy for this game. They are 5-3 against Eastern Conference teams.

After a lot of excitement that Robert Williams III was very close to a return against the Warriors, he is once again listed as out for this game. There is still a possibility that he could return in the second half of the back to back against the Lakers on Tuesday. Al Horford also remains out in Health and Safety Protocols and will miss his 4th straight game. Danilo Gallinari also remains out. Norman Powell (groin) is the only player listed as out for the Clippers.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Sam Hauser
Payton Pritchard
Luke Kornet
Derrick White
Justin Jackson
Noah Vonleh

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Al Horford (covid) out

Head Coach (Interim)
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Clippers Starters

Clippers Reserves
Nicolas Batum
Brandon Boston, Jr
Amir Coffey
Robert Covington
Reggie Jackson
Luke Kennard
Terrance Mann
Jason Preston

2 Way Players
Moses Brown
Moussa Diabate

Norman Powell (groin) out

Head Coach
Tyronn Lue

Key Matchups

Jaylen Brown vs Paul George
Paul George leads the Clippers this season with 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 45.9% from the field and 38.3% from beyond the arc. It will be key for the Celtics to slow him down in this game. Jaylen Brown is coming off a 31 point game against the Warriors and the Celtics will need him to step up on both ends of the court in this game as well.

Grant Williams vs Marcus Morris, Sr
Former Celtic, Marcus Morris, Sr is averaging 13.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He is shooting 44.6% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc. Given the tendency for former Celtics to play well against the Celtics, I expect a big effort from Morris. Grant Williams needs to play well on offense as well as defense.

Honorable Mention
Marcus Smart vs John Wall
Wall is happy to be playing after missing last season and is rounding into form for the Clippers. He is averaging 12.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists. In November, he posted a season high of 26 points against the Jazz and 15 assists against the Spurs. He is shooting 42.4% from the field and 27.4% from beyond the arc. He is capable of having a big game and so the Celtics need to stay with him, especially on drives to the basket.

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 107.7 points per game (30th) while the Celtics average 120.3 points per game. The Celtics are 9th with a defensive rating of 111.1 while the Clippers are 5th with a defensive rating of 110.1. The Celtics looked to be turning the corner with their defense and then allowed the Warriors to shoot 51.1% for the game. The Clippers defense may limit the Celtics on offense in this game just as the Warriors’ defense disrupted them on Saturday. The Celtics must match the Clippers’ defensive effort if they hope 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. The Celtics were out-rebounded 53-39 against the Warriors and they need a much bigger effort in this game. When the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards, it often carries through to other areas of their game.

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. The healthy Clippers are much better than their record and the Celtics can’t expect to win with less than 100% effort. They have to be the more aggressive team and the team that wants it more. 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 many games where the Celtics lose focus and turn the ball over and miss easy shots. Against the Warriors, they didn’t seem focused at all, missing layups and free throws. They have to stay focused and not let up and allow the Clippers to get easy baskets from Celtics sloppiness. The Clippers average 15.8 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 fifth game of a 6 game road trip and they are playing on the first night of back to back games. They have also been playing short handed without Al Horford on the trip so far. 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 Joe Mazzulla have been playing really well but hit a hiccup against Steve Kerr and the Warriors. 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.

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