Clippers Vs. Celtics - Game Preview - Slumping Clippers Need to Right the Ship

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 09: Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers tries to hang on to the ball as Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics defends on March 9, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Boston Celtics 108-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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23-16

21-15
STAPLES Center
March 12th, 2012, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, ESPN, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul PG Rajon Rondo
Randy Foye SG Ray Allen
Caron Butler
SF Paul Pierce
Blake Griffin
PF Brandon Bass
DeAndre Jordan
C Kevin Garnett

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The teams split two meetings last year, with the visitor winning each time.

The Big Picture:

At the end of this 66 game season, you'll be able to look back at the schedule and identify periods of time where teams were playing particularly poorly or particularly well. Whether or not we Citizens of Clips Nation should be seriously concerned at present will depend on whether this current series of 7 losses in 11 games ends up standing out as the worst stretch of the season in the final review, or is simply the new normal for the team. The Clippers have developed a maddening and quite unhealthy habit of meandering through games until the very end. In their last four losses, which were by a combined 9 points, the Clipper have outscored their opponent by between 8 and 10 points in the fourth quarter -- but in each case the rally fell short because the initial hole was too big. They've had an opportunity to win, but it seems in the end the team is too spent to get over the final hurdles and actually get the victory. But if their defensive effort were reasonable in the first three quarters, they wouldn't have to have everything break perfectly in the final quarter during their desperate comeback. Losing the first game of an important six game home stand to a Warriors team with a 6-11 road record was inexcusable, primarily because the Clippers simply didn't show up until late in the third (maybe they forgot to set their clocks for Daylight Savings Time). The Clippers now find themselves a game back of the Lakers in the Pacific Division, and they won't be back in first until they start putting in 48 minutes of effort in every game.

The Antagonist:

Like the Clippers, the Celtics lost a close one in STAPLES Center yesterday. Boston was in position to do the Clippers a huge favor by beating the Lakers, but a five point lead in the final three minutes proved insufficient as the Lakers scored the final eight points of the game for the win. The Celtics have other issues this season. For the first time since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived in Beantown they are not leading the Pacific Division. A playoff spot is fairly safe, but if they were in the West even that would be in question. Boston now finds itself faced with the classic conundrum of whether to blow the team up now, or to try to hang on for another playoff run. Probably there's no good answer. Pierce, Allen and Garnett -- given their ages and contracts -- aren't going to bring much in trade. Which leaves Rajon Rondo as the one young piece they could move, but he's the one piece they could keep and build around for the future.

The Subplots

  • Tonight's Special Guest Recapper.
  • Key Celtics Metrics:

  • Key Clippers Metrics:

  • Point guard battle. The battle between the Clippers' Chris Paul and Boston's Rajon Rondo should be terrific. If either point guard can establish an advantage in that matchup, it could determine the game.
  • Ray Allen. The Celtics Ray Allen has been linked to the Clippers in trade rumors, though the links would seem to be tenuous at best. The Clippers don't have a lot to offer the Celtics beyond Eric Bledsoe, and it's not clear that the either team would be happy with that deal -- the Celtics might think they can get more, while the Clippers might think Bledsoe is too high a price to pay for a two month rental.
  • Bledsoe. Speaking of Bledsoe, the second year player is returning to form after off season knee surgery, and has had some great games recently. Last night against the Warriors, his defense against Monta Ellis changed the game. During the Clippers comeback, he had three steals and drew an offensive foul to single handedly create four straight Warriors turnovers. If Rondo starts to run wild, putting Bledsoe on him could be the answer. At any rate, expect Bledsoe to be getting more and more minutes.
  • Three guard lineup. Partly because of the emergence of Bledsoe, partly because of the funk Butler finds himself in, and partly because Kenyon Martin has been hurt, the Clippers have been playing a lot of three guard lineup lately. In fact, they've played Paul, Williams and Bledsoe together, all three basically no taller than 6'0" for extended sequences. That won't fly against the Celtics -- not if Paul Pierce is on the floor. Pierce would destroy any of those three in the post, and would have his way with Randy Foye as well. Pierce's presence will severely curtail the Clippers' ability to effectively play the three guard lineup.
  • Martin. There's no update on Martin's status. He's missed the last two games with sore ribs, and was dealing with a bad back before that.
  • Home Court Advantage? Through the end of January, the Clippers were 10-2 at home and 2-4 on the road. In February and March, they are 2-4 at home, 9-6 on the road. The two wins have come against Washington and a depleted Denver team. Suddenly, the Clippers are completely lifeless on their home floor and completely incapable of beating even mediocre teams like Golden State and Minnesota. This to me is the biggest mystery with this team right now. Lob City feels like Blob City at the start of every home game. Gone are the days of running Houston, Miami and Oklahoma City straight out of the building. Everything is a slog now.
  • Perspective. As you know because of the frequent errors it causes, I tend to cut-and-paste previous posts to produce previews (alliteration!) The Clippers played the Celtics in Boston last March 9, a year and 3 days ago. At that time they were 24-40 through 64 games. This season the Clippers have 23 wins in 39 games. So while the team isn't playing it's best right now, they're still a lot better than they were.
  • Clippers-Celtics games. Unlike the Spurs and the Jazz and the Mavericks, the Celtics are a good team against whom the Clippers have had some success in recent seasons. They've split the two game season series each of the last three seasons, with the win over the Celtics standing as one of the best wins of the season in each case.
  • Caron Butler. Butler has been mired in a horrendous shooting slump for almost a month now. In the last 12 games, he is shooting 30% from the field and has made just 4 of 23 three pointers. He's gone 0 for 6, 1 for 6 and 0 for 6 in the Clippers last three losses, and it's fair to say that if he even makes one or two of those open looks, the Clippers win those games. Twice now we thought he might have busted out of the slump -- he was 5 for 11 against Sacramento and 5 for 8 Friday against San Antonio -- but it didn't happen, as he followed those games up with complete catastrophes.
  • Mo Williams. Talk about streaky. Williams scored a season-high 33 Friday versus the Spurs, making 12 of 19 shots overall and 7 of 9 three pointers. Yesterday against the Warriors he was 1 for 8 for 3 points. It's hard to figure.
  • Clipper-Celtic Connections. The Clippers have a couple players with connections to Boston. Ryan Gomes played for the Celtics two years -- believe it or not, he was a promising rookie there. He has deep roots in New England, growing up in Connecticut and playing college ball at Providence. Chauncey Billups was originally drafted third overall by Rick Pitino's Celtics, but was traded away in his rookie year. Current Celtics Keyon Dooling and Chris Wilcox were Clipper teammates for a couple of seasons early in their careers.
  • Wilcox. C-Weezy as he is known is not with the Celtics on this road trip, as he awaits further testing on a heart condition that was recently discovered. We certainly hope for the best for Chris. Wilcox had one of the most productive seasons of his career with a career high PER of 18, albeit in limited minutes, in Detroit last year, and had become a key reserve big for the Celtics. With Jermaine O'Neal already out with a wrist injury, missing Wilcox leaves the Celtics paper thin in the front court.
  • Griffin against the Celtics. The last time the Clippers played the Celtics, Blake Griffin had one of the worst games of his rookie season. He was 4 for 14 from the field and just 7 rebounds. The Boston defense gave a ton of attention to Griffin and frequent double teams, and he did not handle it well. With Boston currently thin up front, how effectively Griffin attacks them may be the key to this game. Brandon Bass is too small to defend Griffin, Greg Stiemsma is too slow. That leaves the burden of stopping Griffin on Kevin Garnett, a defensive demon in his day, but 35 years old and averaging just 31 minutes per game this season.
  • Rebounding. Boston is the third worst rebounding team in the league by differential, while the Clippers are the third best. Playing without O'Neal and Wilcox, the Celtics figure to be even worse. The Clippers need to dominate the boards tonight -- not just win the rebounding battle, but dominate.
  • Preferred pronunciation. Remember, the preferred pronunciation at Clips Nation is Keltics or Kelts, not Seltics or Selts. It's pronounced with a hard C, not a soft C. Please make a note of it.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    celtics

    n. slang term for marijuana, originated in eastern MA. the celtics symbol, a green clover, is somewhat similar to the marijuana leaf, so there... when making a deal for some green, you say you want some celtics tix, the dealers then says a row number (price) and seat (amount in grams or fractions of an ounce, you decide)

    Johnny Pothead: Hey man, I need some celtics tix. U got any??
    Carlos Sanchez: Sure, manggg. I got tix for row 60 seat 3.
  • Get the Celtics perspective at CelticsBlog.
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