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Taylor’s Tickets to Triumph: Celtics - Clippers

The Celtics will be looking to settle the score against the LA Clippers.

Clippers vs Celtics Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The last time the Boston Celtics faced off against the LA Clippers, things didn’t go according to plan. Kawhi Leonard remembered he was capable of being an All-Star, and Paul George happily followed suit. However, the Celtics are back on track and will be heading into Thursday’s contest ready to even the score.

Still, the Celtics aren’t without their obstacles, as they will be without Joe Mazzulla on the sidelines, leaving Damon Stoudamire to do battle with Ty Lue throughout the contest — which is a lot tougher than it sounds.

Anyway, as always, the Clippers will have some areas of weakness to exploit, so let's dive into today’s 3 tickets to triumph.

Pilfer is the word of the day

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Eric Espada/NBAE via Getty Images

Only 2 teams in the NBA rank lower than the Clippers for transition defense off of steals. If the Celtics can continue to have active, hands-on defense, play the passing lanes, and pressure the ball handler, Boston should find some easy run-out opportunities throughout the game.

In fact, the Clippers are 25th in the league for turnovers per game, averaging 15.6, so the Celtics should find plenty of opportunities to get out into the open court and make use of the athleticism at their disposal. It also helps that 71.5% of the time a ball is stolen from the Clippers, a transition opportunity is born.

I would hope that we see Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum feasting off of some porous ball handling and decision-making throughout the contest.

Run them off the line

Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The Clippers are a fairly well-rounded offensive team, ranking in the top 10 for three-point accuracy and top 15 for success from the mid-range. However, one area in which the Clippers struggle is around the rim.

As such, the Celtics should look to run LA’s shooters off of their line and funnel them toward the bucket, allowing Boston’s wings to pinch or dig before meeting the offensive player with Al Horford, Robert Williams, or even Luke Kornet. Luckily, the Clippers sit 18th in offensive rebounding, so if Boston can force a miss and box out accordingly, they should be able to limit LA to single attempts on the majority of their offensive possessions — or so you would hope.

Still, it’s worth remembering that Ivica Zubac is a really good big man, and it’s going to take some determination and finesse to contain him if he gets within four feet of the basket.

Keep things in the half court

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images

Per 100 halfcourt possessions, the Clippers are averaging 94.6 points, placing them 21st in the NBA. For reference, the Celtics sit 2nd in the league, dropping 104.3 points per 100 in the halfcourt.

Getting back in transition, building out to the ball, and forcing the Clippers to operate at a methodical pace, should all be focus points of the Celtics' defense heading into Thursday’s game. Halfcourt offense appears to be a clear weakness in the Clippers' skillset and is something Boston can look to initiate at every turn, giving them a clear reference point to exploit whenever possible.

Of course, LA has some serious talent on the wings and at the guard positions, so just because the statistics say that forcing the Clippers to slow down makes sense doesn’t mean Stoudamire shouldn’t have a plan B and plan C up his sleeve just in case Kawhi decides to turn it on again.

Final thoughts

Boston appears to be rolling again, and more importantly, they’re finding ways to win even when their threes aren’t falling. Furthermore, the Celtics' defense is trending in the right direction — currently 7th in the league for defensive rating — so there are multiple avenues available in which to win a game.

I’m going to roll with Boston for Thursday’s game. They’re younger, hungrier, and are playing with purpose, all while boasting the best duo in the entire league. Hopefully, the Celtics can keep their feel-good factor going, and settle the score with a Clippers team that outplayed them just a few weeks ago while Boston was on their West Coast trip from hell.

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