The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. The teams split the season series last year, one game a piece.
The Big Picture:
The Clippers lost the final three games of their just completed road trip and return home to LA five games below .500, their low water mark for the season thus far. That may change very soon, with the mighty Celtics next up. I would say that it's good for the team to be coming back to Staples to enjoy the home court advantage - except they haven't had any advantage to speak of at home all season. Their record is a mere 7-8 at home, barely any better than their road record. If the team is dependent on getting good games from Chris Kaman, Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and at least one player off the bench in order to compete, they've been missing at least two of those four things in the last three games - namely Gordon and the bench. It's really no different in this one. Gordon is going to have to break out of his mini-slump, and the rest of the team will have to play well to beat Boston. In particular, the Clippers are going to have to start playing some defense. San Antonio, Houston and Phoenix have torched the Clippers for about 112 points per game in the last three and they've given up at least 95 in all but one game in the month of December.
Boston has won 14 of their last 15 and currently has the best record in the NBA. They recently lost leading scorer Paul Pierce for at least a couple weeks when he had a minor arthroscopic procedure on his knee - but it didn't seem to phase them in their first game without Pierce, when they beat the defending Eastern Conference champion Magic in Orlando Christmas Day. Even without Pierce, the Celtics have three potential all stars in Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and team leader Kevin Garnett. This is one talented roster. Rondo got serious All Star consideration last season, and his scoring, shooting and assists are all up this season. Not to mention that in the playoffs he was about the best player on the floor. Ray Allen just continues to be one of the best shooters in the history of the league, and Garnett is simply Garnett. Add to that the fact that center Kendrick Perkins is having by far his best statistical season and the Celtics look serious about challenging the Lakers for a title this season. If the Clippers want to know something about winning, they should watch the way Boston plays defense - that's where they win their games, with the second best defensive efficiency in the league.
- Last season. The Clippers most improbable victory by far came against the Celtics in LA last February. Garnett didn't play in that one, but the Clippers played one of their best games of the season nonetheless. Unfortunately, the Celtics are unlikely to look past the Clippers after having lost to them last season.
- Camby? Marcus Camby played only 10 minutes against the Suns after hyperextending his knee in the Houston game on Tuesday. You guys probably know more than me about whether he's going to be ready for the Celtics. Keep an eye on Lisa Dillman and the LA Times for more info.
- Garnett. Speaking of KG missing the Clippers game last season, he went down hard at the end of their game against Orlando and missed the final minutes. However, it sounds like he's not planning on missing any time.
Rasheed Wallace. The Celtics added Rasheed Wallace this off-season to bolster their bench. Unfortunately for them, Sheed has struggled shooting the ball this season. He's under 40% from the field, under 30% from three.
- Defending the three. The Clippers get a bit of break from the mad bomber teams they've been facing. With Pierce out, the Celtics only have one outside threat in their starting lineup (Ray Allen) and only two guys on their bench who are likely to shoot threes (Wallace and former Clipper Eddie House). Still, it's crucial to stay up on those guys.
- Baron Davis versus Rajon Rondo. Rondo is turning out to be the point guard many people thought Baron Davis could be - a do everything point who is physically imposing and can defend, distribute and score. Rondo's not an outside shooter, but then again neither is Davis. The key is to keep Rondo out of the lane. Unlike many of Rondo's defenders, Baron can match up with him physically. For the Clippers to have a chance in this one, Baron will have to hold his own in the Rondo matchup.
- Offensive efficiency. The Celtics thrive on their defense. They held the high powered Magic to 33% shooting Christmas Day. The Clippers will have to be efficient in the half court offense to win, and that's not easy against Boston. Kaman has been playing well enough that he should have an advantage on offense over Perkins. The Celtics don't like to double, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the first quarter in that matchup.
- Steve in Tahoe. I won't be watching this one - at least not until next week on the DVR. I'll be in Tahoe, and unless I can find a WiFi signal in the remote neighborhood of my in-law's cabin, I won't be watching on League Pass or even following the score. Citizen ClipperChuck has volunteered to write the recap, so look for that in the FanPosts. And thanks for stepping up, Chuck. (Heh, heh... I wrote up chuck.)
You mean... CELTS. They drink the blood of their dead.
- Get the Celtics perspective at CelticsBlog.