The Celtics return home from their 3-0 road trip to host the Los Angeles Clippers. This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first match 142-108 in Los Angeles on December 23. Kawhi and Plumlee missed that game for LA and Porzingis, Kornet and Mykhailiuk were out for the Celtics. They tied the series last season 1-1 with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics are 93-46 overall all time against the Clippers and they are 48-17 in games played in Boston.
The Celtics remain first in the East. The 2nd place Bucks are 3.5 games behind the Celtics while the 3rd place 76ers are 5 games back. The Celtics are 7 games ahead of 4th place New York and 7.5 games ahead f 5th place Cleveland. The Celtics are 20-1 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 11-4 against Western Conference teams. The Celtics have won their last 3 games.
The Clippers are 3rd in the West, 2 games behind 1st place Oklahoma City and 2nd place Minnesota. They are half a game ahead of 4th place Denver and 4 games ahead of 5th place Phoenix and 6th place New Orleans and also 7th place Sacramento and a play in spot. They are 10-10 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games They are 7-3 against Eastern Conference teams. They have won their last 4 games.
The Celtics are coming off a 3-0 road trip through Houston, Dallas and Miami. This is the 1st game of a 7 game home stand beginning with the Clippers and then including New Orleans, Indiana, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis, Atlanta, and Washington. They will then have a rematch with the Heat in Miami and a home and home series against the Nets.
The Clippers are coming off a 3-0 home stand against Oklahoma City, Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Lakers. This is the 2nd game of a 7 game road trip that began with a win on Friday in Toronto. They are playing in back to back games. They are 3-3 on the second night of back to back games. Their road trip will continue through Cleveland, Washington, Detroit, Miami and Atlanta.
The Clippers have been one of the hottest teams in the league since acquiring James Harden from Philadelphia. Since November 17, the Clippers are a league leading 25-7. Over that span, they are 1st in 3 point percentage (40.8 ), 2nd in offensive rating (121.9), and 4th in field goal percentage (50.1). They are also fifth in plus/minus differential (7.3). The Celtics can’t take them for granted due to their big win in LA.
Both teams will be missing their starting center. Kristaps Porzingis left Thursday’s game against the Heat after turning his ankle when he stepped on another player’s foot. He did not return to the game and is listed as doubtful for this game. I expect Al Horford to start in his place. For the Clippers, Ivica Zubac has been diagnosed with a a right calf strain and will miss at least 4 weeks. I expect Mason Plumlee to get the start.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) doubtful
Probable Clippers Starters
Brandon Boston, Jr
Two Way Players
Ivica Zubac (calf) out
Jayson Tatum vs Kawhi Leonard
Leonard is averaging 23.7 poionts, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He is shooting 52.2% from the field and 44.3% from beyond the arc. Leonard missed the first meeting between these two teams. This should be a fun matchup and the Celtics will need Jayson Tatum to play well on both ends of the court.
Jaylen Brown vs Paul George
George is averaging 23.5 points, 5.6 reboun3.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He is shooting 46.8% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc. In the first game between these two teams He finished with 21 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. The Celtics need to defend him well as he is capable of putting up big numbers.
Jrue Holiday vs James Harden
Harden has been playing very well since coming to the Clippers. He is averaging 17.3 points, 4.5 rebound, 8.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 45.6% from the field and 42.3% from beyond the arc. As with both Kawhi and George, he shoots very well from the outside and so the Celtics need to stay with him on the perimeter.
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 118.0 points per game (9th) while the Celtics average 120.8 points per game (4th). The Celtics are 2nd with a defensive rating of 110.5 while the Clippers are 13th with a defensive rating of 114.0. The Celtics must make defense a priority and they have to put out more effort on defense than the Clippers if they want to win this game. Every Celtic must make playing tough lock down defense a priority in this game. The Clippers lead the league in 3 point percentage and so the Celtics need to especially defend them on the perimeter.
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 average 47.4 rebounds per game (1st) while the Clippers average 43 rebounds per game (20th). The Celtics have to work harder on the boards than the Clippers.
Energy and Effort for 48 Minutes - 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 Clippers have been playing very well 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 as they will want to avenge their 37 point loss to the Celtics in December, and so the Celtics simply must work harder with no let up
Play the Right Way - The Celtics must play the right way. The Celtics struggle when players over dribble and iso and try to do too much. On the other hand, good things happen when they move the ball and look to make the extra pass and find the open man and the best shot. They need to take good shots and not force up highly contested shots. If they aren’t hitting their 3 pointers, they need to find other ways to score and not shoot themselves out of the game. The Celtics need to continue to play unselfish ball and play together. .
Home Game - The Celtics are at home for the first 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 along with playing in back to back games. The Celtics have to take advantage of that.
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 not to mention to avenge their 38 point loss to the Celtics in December? The Celtics under second year coach Joe Mazzulla have been playing really well, especially at home. Can Mazzula get the best of the more seasoned 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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