The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
Well, let's see. The Clippers beat the Celtics in LA last month - so the Celtics should be plenty motivated. The Celtics are getting back to full strength for the first time in a while (Kevin Garnett was missing for the last game but is back, as is Rajon Rondo). And the Clippers are playing completely uninspired basketball, losing the first two games of this trip to a Detroit team missing 4 of their top 5 starters and a Toronto team 20 games under .500. This could get ugly. I mean, sure, no one expected the Clippers to win the first time around. But if they're not behind by 20 in the first quarter I will be shocked. I didn't see the Toronto game and looking at the box score, I can't say I'm sorry to have missed it. I won't see this game either - and that seems like good news as well. No one seems to be playing well right now. And I get the impression that they all just want the season to be over.
The Celtics suffered through a rash of injuries which has dropped them behind the Cavaliers in the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The starting five is great, but there's not a lot of depth, and it showed as Kevin Garnett missed all or part of 14 games and not coincidentally the Celtics were 7 and 7 during his absence. He's back now, and the Celtics have a lot to play for. Even if they can't catch the Cavs (which seems unlikely, with Cleveland having built a 5 game lead in the loss column), they still need to fend off Orlando for second place in the East. The East playoffs are going to be interesting - one team is going to be on the road starting in the second round, even with 60 wins. Boston doesn't want to be that team. By the way, Garnett is still on limited minutes in the third game of his comeback: about 24 minutes total is the target tonight.
- Mardy Collins, go to scorer. In the game in LA, the Clippers went to an unlikely source for scoring down the stretch. They isolated Mardy Collins time and again against Paul Pierce in the fourth quarter, and somehow it produced enough points for the Clippers to win. Collins returned to the Clippers lineup yesterday in Toronto, after missing time with plantar fasciitas. But somehow I don't think we'll get a repeat of the LA experience.
- Small Forward. Al Thornton sat out the Raptors game with a sore shoulder he hurt against the Pistons. Fred Jones started in his place. If he's unable to play in Boston, Pierce will be a very difficult cover for Jones, so hopefully Collins is ready to play more minutes. If Thornton can go, it will be another tough on the ball challenge for Al - he's defended LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in recent weeks.
- Rebounding. The Clippers three big experiment is blowing up in their faces. The one thing they should be able to do is rebound, right? Well, against the Raptors with Randolph, Kaman and Camby all healthy, LA was outrebounded by 23, and pulled down a grand total of 2 offensive rebounds. That's ridiculous. It's hard to imagine.
- Eric Gordon. Eric Gordon has been in the closest thing he's had to a slump this season. He was 1 for 8 against the Warriors, then had a couple of quiet first halves in the next two games (followed by big second halves), and then had another poor game in Toronto (3 for 10). He had a bad game against the Celtics the first time, shooting 1 for 7 before being hurt early in the second half. He finished with 4 points in that game, the only time in the last 39 games that he finished below double figures.
- Superstar for one game. Mikki Moore. It doesn't much matter. Let's pick a former Clipper.
"P O O K A - Pooka - from old Celtic mythology - a fairy spirit in animal form - always very large. The pooka appears here and there - now and then - to this one and that one - a benign but mischievous creature - very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?" "How are you, Mr. Wilson?" Who in the encyclopedia wants to know?
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