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Clippers vs. Boston - Game Preview

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2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Lac1_70_medium
vs.
     Bos_70_medium
14-43
46-12
Staples Center
February 25th, 2009, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Rajon Rondo
Eric Gordon
SG Ray Allen
Al Thornton
SF Paul Pierce
Zach Randolph
PF Leon Powe
Marcus Camby
C Kendrick Perkins

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers finally face the defending champs.  Boston is the only team in the NBA that the Clippers have yet to play this season, but that finally changes tonight.  The Clippers, after losing their first three games following the All Star break in completely humliating fashion, got Marcus Camby and Zach Randolph back against the Warriors on Monday and subsequently got a win.  But the Celtics, number one in the league in defensive efficiency, are a lot different than the 28th place Warriors.   Still, if Al Thornton's foot allows him to play tonight as he was hoping, the Clippers could actually start a team that has a winning record this season.  And the triple threat of Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and Zach Randolph looked pretty potent on Monday.  It's probable that Baron's performance was a one-off based on the extra motivation of playing his former team, but I suppose there's a chance that T.J. Simers, or maybe even Bill Simmons, has lit a fire under him.  

The Antagonist:

The Celtics are playing without team leader Kevin Garnett, out for a couple weeks with a knee injury.  It hasn't seemed to matter much however - they won their first two games without KG easily.  Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were both all stars in Phoenix, and Rajon Rondo arguably should have been, so the team still has plenty of talent.  And given the Clippers rather weak perimeter defenders, any or all of those three could have big games.  You know, it's funny... two seasons ago, the Celtics were tanking their way to the second worst record in the NBA.  All but one of the guys who will start for them tonight were on that team.  Plus they had Al Jefferson.  Winning is an attitude.  Yes, Ray Allen helps, and yes Rajon Rondo is better now than he was then, but even without KG, this team now dominates opponents because they expect to.  

The Subplots

  • Speaking of Defensive Efficiency.  The Clippers are now down to 27th in the league in defensive efficiency.  And they're 30th in the league in offensive efficiency.  That combination is the worst in the NBA.  Sacramento (25th in offense, 30th in defense) and Washington (26th in offense and 29th in defense) are the next two.  I haven't tracked the decline, but I know there was a time when the Clippers defense this season was ranked in the low 20s.  But this team is a far cry defensively from the 05-06 team that was top 10 in efficiency.
  • Mikki Moore?  The Celtics signed former Clipper Mikki Moore yesterday, and by all accounts will be joining the team in LA, and may even be in uniform for the game.  He was waived by Sacramento last week, and appears to be this season's P.J. Brown for the Celtics - a veteran big man to help out in the playoffs.  Moore was always a favorite in LA, and you can't help but be routing rooting for him at this point.  I mean, he kicked around the league for years and years - and now he's leaving the team with the worst record to join the defending champs less than 8 weeks before the playoffs start.  Congratulations, Mikki.  
  • Starbury?  Really?  There's likely going to be another new Celtics in the coming days, and his name is Stephon Marbury.  He was waived by the Knicks yesterday, and is expected to sign with the Celtics when he clears waivers.  He obviously won't be playing in this game, but he's always fun to talk about.  (Truthfully, we got a lot more mileage out of the Isiah Thomas Knicks on this blog.  I miss Isiah.)  If you ask me, it's crazy to put Marbury on the defending champs, no matter how badly they need a point guard.  Why do they want him around?  
  • Long trip.  The Celtics are playing their sixth consecutive road game.  In fact, they haven't played in Boston since February 8th.  They had the All Star break in the middle, so it's not like they've been playing non stop, but still, it's possible that they could be looking towards the plane ride home and overlooking the Clippers.  Of course, they can probably overlook the Clippers completely and still win.
  • Baron shows up.  The Baron Davis Clipper fans were expecting finally showed up on Monday, when he came within a single rebound of a triple double.  Was that a sign of great things to come?  Or just one game where he decided to play hard?  If he's 'dogging' it tonight, it will not go well for the Clippers.  Either Rajon Rondo will take him off the dribble, or Ray Allen will run him into screens and drain threes over him.  But it's got to start on defense against the Celtics backcourt, and defense is hard work.  So let's see what happens.
  • Eric Gordon.  This mini-battle between Eric Gordon and Russell Westbrook is just fascinating me right now.  After Gordon tied him in scoring average, Westbrook immediately went out and scored 31 against the Warriors.  Gordon got his shot at the porous Warriors defense next, and put up 27.  A sub-par outing Tuesday night against the Lakers saw Westbrook score only 14.  So as of this instant, EJ has scored 874 points in 57 games, and Westbrook has scored 873 points in 57 games.  EJ has scored in double figures 30 consecutive games, and has put up 21 or more in 6 straight.  The Celtics defense is stingy, but I say he goes for 20+ again.  He had a poor first half against the Warriors.  He's not going to have another one of those for awhile.
  • Zach Randolph.  I'm not sure that the Celtics have a big man who can handle Zach Randolph.  Perkins is tough - but Zach should be able to face him up away from the basket and either shoot the jumper, or drive past him.  Powe and Big Baby Davis are both undersized (at least height wise) not to mention that Zach will throw an array of moves at them that they just haven't seen much in their limited time in the league.  Interestingly, Mikki Moore might be the Celtics best defender against Z-bo tonight if he's in uniform.
  • The Injury Story.  Kevin Garnett's current injury is essentially the first significant injury the Celtics have suffered this season.  Their top 9 scorers have missed 32 games TOTAL so far and 18 of those were from Tony Allen, hardly a major key for them.  The starters have missed 7 games total.  Pierce, Allen and Rondo have yet to miss a game.  Here's how you can tell they've been really, really healthy.  J.R. Giddens, their first round draft pick, has played in two games (for a total of 6 minutes) this season - the last two games.  He's been on the roster all year, and he's been healthy, and the Celtics have had plenty of blowouts - but there just hasn't been any room on the active roster for him.  By contrast, the Clippers have had 19 players suit up for them this season - and 17 of them have STARTED!  Only Cheikh Samb and Alex Acker have been on the roster but not started a game for the Clippers this season.
  • Superstar for one game.  Do you go with a Millsap-style, undersized four, like Leon Powe?  Or a true Morrow-style longshot, like Giddens or Bill Knight or maybe former Trojan Gabe Pruitt?  I'm going with Powe.  With Garnett out and even Scalabrine questionable, Powe's going to get plenty of minutes.
  • Get the Celtics perspective at CelticsBlog.