The Celtics look for a 4th straight win as they host the Los Angeles Clippers. This is the 7th and final game of the Celtics 7 game home stand. They are 3-3 in the 6 games so far. This is the second and final regular season meeting between these two teams. The Clippers beat the Celtics 113-93 in their first meeting on December 13 in Los Angeles.
The Clippers are playing in the 4th game of a 5 game road trip. They are 2-1 so far on the trip, beating Detroit and Toronto and losing to Philadelphia. They will close out the trip on December 31at Indiana. The Celtics will head back out on the road after this game with a 4 game Western road trip beginning on New Year’s Day.
The Celtics have regained 1st place in the East after a very brief time at 2nd place. They are 2 games ahead of 2nd place Brooklyn, who have won their last 10 games. They are 2.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, who have slipped to 3rd place. They are 14-3 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 3 games and they are 10-2 against Western Conference teams.
The Clippers are in 4th place in the West. They are 2.5 games behind the 2nd place Nuggets and 2 games out of 7th place and a spot in the play in tournament. They are 10-8 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 2 games. They are 10-4 against Eastern Conference teams.
The Celtics have Danilo Gallinari on the injury list as he rehabs from the ACL tear. Malcolm Brogdon was a late addition with a non-covid illness and is questionable. Payton Pritchard missed Tuesday’s game against the Rockets with a thigh injury but was not on Wednesday’s injury list. Head Coach Joe Mazzulla missed Tuesday’s game with an eye injury and is questionable for this game. The Clippers have no injuries listed at this time.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Joe Mazzulla (eye) questionable
Malcolm Brogdon (illness) questionable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Clippers Starters
Brandon Boston, Jr
2 Way Players
Derrick White vs Paul George
Paul George has been the Clippers best and most consistent player this season. He is averaging 23.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 45.0% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc. In the first game between these two teams, George finished with 26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. The Celtics need to slow him down in this one.
Jaylen Brown vs Kawhi Leonard
Leonard is averaging 16.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He is shooting 46.0% from the field but just 25.5% from beyond the arc. In the first game between these two teams, Leonard had 25 points 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal. He was just returning from injury in that game and so will likely be playing even better in this game.
Jayson Tatum vs Marcus Morris, Sr
Morris is averaging 13.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He is shooting 44.6% from the field and 38.3% from beyond the arc. The last time these two teams squared off he had 13 points, 2 rebounds and no assists. He always seems to get up for his former team, however and so the Celtics need to defend him well.
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 109.2 points per game (29th) while the Celtics average 118.9 points per game (1st). The Celtics are 7th with a defensive rating of 110.4 while the Clippers are 3rd with a defensive rating of 109.3. The Celtics have improved on defense but they still tend to have lapses from time to time. The Clippers defense may limit the Celtics on offense in this game just as they did in LA, shooting just 43.4% from the field and 23.1% from beyond the arc. On the other hand, the Celtics allowed the Clippers to shoot 48.9% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc in that game. 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 46-36 against the Clippers in LA and they need a much bigger effort on the boards 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.
Remember What Works - The Celtics have to remember what works and avoid what hasn’t worked for them. If the 3’s aren’t falling, they have to get inside to get easier baskets and see the ball go through the hoop. Driving also allows them to get to the line. They have to move the ball and move without the ball to get the best shots and not play hero ball. They have to play tough team defense in the paint and on the perimeter and not allow easy baskets for the Clippers.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home for the final game of a 7 game home stand. They need to protect home court and play with energy and effort. The Celtics should get a boost from the home crowd and from playing on their home court. The Clippers have the distractions of travel, staying in hotels, and playing in front of a hostile crowd. The Celtics have to take advantage of that.
Revenge Factor- The Celtics were embarrassed by the Clippers when they played in Los Angeles. The Celtics didn’t play with much effort and the Clippers were able to beat them 113-93 for their 2nd loss in a row on the road trip. The Celtics should be motivated to avenge that loss and even the series on their home court.
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.