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Los Angeles Clippers at Boston Celtics - Game Preview

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2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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24-40

46-15
TD Garden
February 26th, 2011, 4:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Mo Williams
PG Rajon Rondo
 Randy Foye SG Ray Allen
Ryan Gomes
SF Paul Pierce
Blake Griffin
PF Kevin Garnett
DeAndre Jordan
C Nenad Krstic

 

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The bad news is that the Clippers are back out on the road again, where they are 6-25 on the season. The good news is that after a win in Charlotte on Monday night, they are 1-0 on this road trip and 3-0 in March. The bad news is that they are playing without Eric Gordon, and their record without him is 5-16. The good news is that there are still some winnable games on this trip. The bad news is that this isn't really one of them. The Clippers were competitive against the Celtics a couple of weeks ago in Staples Center, leading at halftime. But a dismal third quarter in which the Celtics defense put the clamps on the Clippers doomed LA to defeat. That game was after Baron Davis had been traded, but before he had taken a physical in Cleveland, so Mo Williams and Jamario Moon were sitting out, in addition to Gordon. So that was a very offensively challenged Clippers team. With Chris Kaman playing better and providing a scoring option in the halfcourt, and Williams also a capable scorer, the Clippers have some weapons on offense. But it probably won't be enough against the Celtics. Blake Griffin will have to have a monster game for the Clippers to have any chance. In February, Griffin scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds - pretty standard stuff, really. Randy Foye and Eric Bledsoe have been pretty good in the absence of Eric Gordon - that will have to continue. And the Clippers will have to take care of the ball - they turned it over 21 times in the last meeting with Boston (including 4 shot clock violations). That's not an option if they want to be in this game.

The Antagonist:

The Celtics have added five new players since February 22nd. In their last game, against Milwaukee Monday night, they played nine players and four of them had been with the team less than two weeks. And that was before Carlos Arroyo arrived, so rookie Avery Bradley was still getting the backup point guard minutes. Against the Clippers tonight, the rotation could well feature five new guys among the nine who play. That sort of wholesale change is not usually recommended this late in the season for a title contender - but then again, the other four among those nine all made the All Star Team this season, and you could pretty much put a middle school girls team around them and be pretty competitive. Part of the reason that so many new guys are being pressed into service is that players are hurt - the O'Neals (Shaq and Jermaine) are still out, and are now joined by Glen Davis, the large infant, leaving them very thin (in more ways than one) in the front court. Delonte West is also hurt. With so many players out (and with so many veterans being cut), the Celtics followed up the trade deadline deals that brought in Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green by claiming Troy Murphy, Sasha Pavlovic and Arroyo off of waivers. The front line depth looks a little suspect on paper - Krstic is marginal at best, and Murphy has barely played this season - so the Clippers' bigs may have an advantage there. But the Celtics still have their big four of Garnett, Pierce, Allen and Rondo, and they're pretty hard to beat.

The Subplots

  • Foye. Randy Foye scored a game high 32 in the first meeting with the Celtics, trying to keep the Clippers in the game almost single handedly. He's unlikely to have as good a game tonight, but hopefully he'll get more help in the backcourt from Williams and the rejuvenated Bledsoe.
  • Familiar Foe. New Clipper Mo Williams was of course in the Eastern Conference for seven seasons before joining the Clippers, so he's very familiar with the Celtics. I was wondering how he had fared against them. As a member of the Cavs, in the matchup of the conference's top teams the last few seasons, Mo was 4-5 against Boston. He had a 26 point game against them two years ago, and a 31 point game when he played with the Bucks. For his career, he is shooting 47% from deep against them.
  • Mo' Williams. Since joining the Clippers, Williams has scored 16, 17, 17 and 17 in his four games - so he's certainly been consistent. He's not shooting a good percentage - 38% to be exact - but he has made 6 of 16 threes. He has averaged 7 assists in the four games, but almost 3 turnovers to go with those assists. Most importantly though, the team has won three straight. After so much losing in Cleveland, Williams must be pretty happy to have a 3-1 record in his Clippers career.
  • Boston Connections. The Clippers have a couple players with connections to Boston. Craig Smith played four seasons for the Eagles of Boston College. Ryan Gomes played for the Celtics two years, and has deep roots in New England, growing up in Connecticut and playing college ball at Providence. Gomes was part of the trade that brought Garnett from Minnesota to Boston. So far that one hasn't worked out so well for Minnesota.
  • Hot Boston. The Celtics have yet to lose since Krstic and Green joined the team, winning five straight beginning with the last Clippers game. Green was in single digits in his first three games in green, but scored 21 a couple of games ago. Krstic has been starting at center in the absence of so many Celtic bigs, and is shooting almost 57% in Boston.
  • Aminu's arms. Almost every game, even though most of the time he seems relatively lost on the floor, rookie Al-Farouq Aminu will do something jaw-dropping that makes you realize why the Clippers made him the 8th pick in the draft (and were thrilled to do so). The coast to coast forays for layups, like he had in the second half in Charlotte, are nice enough; but it's the defense that gets my attention. He's not a great defender, or even a particularly good one, at this point. But his arms are so freaky long that he comes up with plays that are completely unexpected. He had three steals in Charlotte and each was a direct result of his plastic man arms. In that regard, he reminds me a bit of Rajon Rondo. Rondo's arms are similarly freakish, which he uses to great advantage. Rondo loves to gamble on defense, which leads to a lot of steals, but also leads to him getting beat a lot. But he can frequently recover with a tip away with those crazy long arms. At any rate, they say you can't teach length, and Aminu is as long as small forwards come. If he can be taught some other skills, he could be very, very good.
  • Another Rondo comparison. The other Clipper rookie from this draft class is Eric Bledsoe, and Bledsoe seems to be really coming into his own right now. Bledsoe and Rondo both went to Kentucky, and they have some similarities beyond their alma mater. It's obvious, even to the casual observer, that Bledsoe is a terrific rebounder from the point guard position, as is Rondo. This observation is supported in the data as well. Bledsoe is among the best rebounding point guards in the NBA on a per minute basis. He averages 5.9 rebounds per 48 minutes, compared to 5.7 per 48 for Rondo, who is considered one of the best rebounding point guards. Rondo has more reach than Bledsoe (Bledsoe has long arms in his own right, just not Rondo arms), but Bledsoe is stronger and more athletic. Of course, Rondo's value comes from his floor vision and defense, both of which are areas where Bledsoe needs work.
  • Boston's Rebounding. In preparing this preview, I was surprised to see that Boston is 29th in the league in rebounding. After all, Garnett is still a good rebounder, and they have some other size (though it's been hurt all season). Now, you have to recall that on those ESPN team pages, they're just reporting the raw data, which can be misleading. For instance, Boston plays at a pretty slow pace, which will limit their rebounding opportunities. So I dug a little deeper. In fact, the Celtics are a pretty decent defensive rebounding team - 10th in the league in Defensive Rebound Percent, which adjusts for pace. And it would stand to reason that they must be OK on the defensive glass - it would be hard to have the league's second best defense if they weren't getting a lot of defensive rebounds. On the offensive glass, it's a different story. They are last in the league in total offensive rebounds by a WIDE margin. They have almost 100 fewer offensive rebounds than any other team in the league. Now, they also happen to shoot by far the best percentage in the league, so that accounts for a lot of the margin - there aren't many offensive rebounds available if you don't miss many shots. But even pace adjusted, the Celtics are the worst offensive rebounding team in the league. Maybe they just expect the ball to go in, so they don't go to the glass aggressively.
  • Division Leaders. The Clippers have made a strange habit of beating good teams this season. In fact, among their victims are five of six current division leaders (Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Lakers). The only one they haven't beaten is the Atlantic Division leading Boston. Tonight is their last chance to complete the set against the Celtics.
  • Garnett and Griffin. Blake Griffin has gotten under the skin of several opponents this season, and they tend to be more veteran guys. From Andre Miller to James Posey to Lamar Odom, Griffin's non stop effort has definitely rubbed some guys the wrong way. He's also taken some really hard fouls, partly because of these conflicts, and partly because opponents don't have any better ideas for how to stop him. Meet Kevin Garnett. KG is a 16 year vet and one of the most confrontational players in the league. The first meeting between the two passed without incident, but I would not be surprised if they got into each other's face tonight.
  • Green and Allen. It's funny that Green is now on the Celtics, since I wrote a bullet about him a couple of weeks ago when the Clippers played the Thunder. I questioned the wisdom of the trade that sent Ray Allen to the Celtics in exchange for the fifth pick in the draft that became Green - and now they're both in Boston!
  • Preferred pronunciation. Remember, the preferred pronunciation at Clips Nation is Keltics or Kelts, with a hard C, not a soft C. Please make a not of it.
  • Superstar for one game: Troy Murphy. Why not? By the way, Marc Stein noted in his last Weekend Dime that Murphy leads all active NBA players in games played without a playoff appearance, a streak that should end soon now that he is in Boston. Playing in Boston sure beats not playing in New Jersey.
  • Famous Quotation: 

    It is now many years that men have resorted to the forest for fuel and the materials of the arts: the New Englander and the New Hollander, the Parisian and the Celt, the farmer and Robin Hood, Goody Blake and Harry Gill; in most parts of the world, the prince and the peasant, the scholar and the savage, equally require still a few sticks from the forest to warm them and cook their food. Neither could I do without them.
    Henry David Thoreau
  • Get the Celtics perspective at CelticsBlog.