The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
As we've been saying ad nauseum, there are no tweener games on this road trip. It's either the best in the league, or the worst in the league. Tonight in Boston it's the Celtics, who always are planning to win their next championship. The big question for the Clippers is can Eric Gordon play, because it's hard to imagine that they would have enough to handle the Celtics without Gordon. Still, the Clippers did beat Boston less than a month ago in LA, led by Chris Kaman with 27 points and 12 rebounds and Baron Davis with 24 points, 13 assists and the game winner at the buzzer (I'm sad I missed that game). They also won that game without Marcus Camby. Then again, the Celtics were without Paul Pierce. But if Baron can once again outplay Rajon Rondo and Kaman has another big game, the Clippers have a shot in this one. The Clippers, bear in mind, have
a two game winning streak going won two out of three against the Celtics stretching back to last season.
Boston has been struggling some - and it started with the loss in LA. Going into that game they were a league-best 23-5, and since that time they are 5 and 8. Sure, they've been dealing with injuries to Pierce and Garnett - but aren't the best teams supposed to be able to win even without one of their top players? The point is moot for tonight, since Garnett is now back and the Celtics have all their big guns semi-healthy again. That team, the one with Garnett and Pierce, is 23-5 on the season - so that's the one the Clippers will be seeing. I think we can safely assume that the Celtics will have plenty of motivation after losing consecutive games to the Clippers. During Boston's championship season two years ago they were the best defensive team in the NBA by a wide margin. They're not as good as they were that season - but they're still defined by their defense, which ranks third in the NBA in terms of efficiency. On offense, their starters each average between 12 (Kendrick Perkins) and 19 (Pierce) points per game. But their bench is suspect, with newcomer Rasheed Wallace shooting just over 40% and Eddie House shooting under 40% (of course Eddie takes a lot of threes, but he's way off his percentages from last season). Even with Garnett back on Friday, the Celtics needed overtime to beat the Blazers playing without Brandon Roy. Early in the season, Boston was blowing people out. They're just not playing that well right now, for whatever reason.
- For What It's Worth. Since the last time these two teams met and including that game, the Clippers have the better record. The game was about a month ago, and in that time the Clippers have a winning record of 8 and 6 while the Celtics have a losing record of 5 and 8. And the Clippers have played some pretty tough competition in the interim.
- Kaman Torches Single Coverage. Boston prides itself on not double teaming. They emphasize tough man to man principals and keep the double teaming gimmicks to a minimum. Well, Chris Kaman torched them for 27 points on 12 for 21 shooting last time. Kendrick Perkins is a very good low post defender, but Kaman has too many weapons for almost any single defender. Of course, we also know that Kaman continues to struggle to make the correct reads against double teams, so it will be interesting to see if Boston sticks to it's principle of single coverage, or if they come with the double team a little more often.
- Back to back - sort of. The Clippers are technically playing the second game of back to backs. However, with a 1 PM Eastern time tip off in Washington DC, followed by a 7:30 Eastern time tip off in Boston, it's one of the gentlest back to backs you can imagine. It's clearly nothing compared to the LA to Denver back to back they had last week. Hopefully they'll have plenty of energy for the game.
- Garnett versus Camby. This should be a run matchup. Marcus really is more of a weak side help defender, but he does get fired up for certain matchups. He'll need to stay up on Garnett's jump shot, but he doesn't have to chase him out to the three point line. Most important, he needs to keep Garnett contained on the offensive glass.
- Baron versus Rondo. This is the matchup of the game. If Baron can win this matchup as he did in LA then the Clippers have a chance.
- Three point shooting. The Clippers were 1 for 14 shooting the three against Denver. They were 3 for 16 against the Wizards. That's just terrible, and there's no way they can beat Boston if they shoot like that. If Eric Gordon is back, that should help. If he's not, Rasual Butler and Baron Davis and Ricky Davis have got to make some threes or you can forget about winning this game.
I'm not really jogging. I only ran about fifty yards. This is not real sweat, either. I sprayed it on. They sell this at sporting goods stores. It's made from the actual sweat of professional athletes. This was taken from a Boston Celtics basketball player immediately after a double overtime game.
- Get the Celtics perspective at CelticsBlog.