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Clippers-Celtics preview: Facing what's left of the Celtics

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A year and a half after trading coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers, Danny Ainge has now dismantled essentially all of Rivers' former team. What's left of the Celtics comes into STAPLES Center for an MLK Day matinee.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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27-14

13-25
January 19th, 2013, 12:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
11-8 East 9-17
16-6 West 4-8
17-7 Home 9-13
10-7 Road 4-12
10-11 .500+ 3-18
17-3 .500- 10-7
7-3 L10 3-7
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Avery Bradley
J.J. Redick SG Evan Turner
Matt Barnes SF Jae Crowder
Blake Griffin PF Jared Sullinger
DeAndre Jordan C Tyler Zeller
Advanced Stats
96.56 (12th of 30) Pace 99.27 (2nd of 30)
110.4 (2nd of 30) ORtg 903.8 (21st of 30)
104.0 (19th of 30) DRtg 103.8 (17th of 30)
Injuries/Other
None
None

The Back Story (The Clippers won the season series last year 2-0):

Date Venue Final

12/11/13 Boston Clippers 96, Celtics 88 Recap Box
01/08/14 Los Angeles Clippers 111, Celtics 105 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The first half of the season is in the books and the Clippers continue to be enigmatic. The defense is not as good as it needs to be, but then again, the 125 points they allowed to Cleveland on Saturday had a lot to do with some very good offense from the likes of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. The offense has been great -- it has now climbed to second in the NBA and frankly I'll be shocked if it doesn't take over the top spot soon and stay there. But the bench has been bad and it seems to be getting worse. If Austin Rivers is the answer then I may not be asking the same question. The best spin I can put on this is that I think everyone knows the Clippers can, and probably will, play better at some point in time. If they time it right, maybe they'll be playing their best when everything matters most. As far as that goes, the second half of the regular season is surely more important than the first half, so now would be a good time to start playing better.

The Antagonist:

The Celtics have undertaken one of the most stunning house-cleanings in NBA history. Only three players and no coaches remain from the team that Doc Rivers last coached, a mere 21 months ago -- four players if you count Shavlik Randolph, who just arrived back in Boston in the deal that sent Austin Rivers to the Clippers and Reggie Bullock to the Suns. The stars of the Celtics last championship team -- Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen -- are all gone, along with Jeff Green in the most recent move. In their place, Danny Ainge has assembled a few young players and an entire roster's worth of draft picks for the next two seasons -- including a first rounder and a second rounder from the Clippers. Coach Brad Stevens will have them playing hard every night, but do they have enough talent to stay in games with the current roster? Most night's the answer will be no.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers defense is fading fast, all the way down to 19th in defensive efficiency. It's no secret that defense is their problem right now, and it's equally obvious that they won't be a serious contender in the playoffs without playing better on that end.
  • Young roster. On the Celtics current roster, the top seven players in terms of minutes per game are all 26 years of age or younger. Among the players signed for next season only Gerald Wallace (who has barely played this season and would seem to be another buyout candidate) is over 26.
  • Cold Paul. Chris Paul, who has been shooting very well this season especially from beyond the arc, has suddenly gone ice cold. Paul is 14-46, just a tick over 30%, since the Portland win, and 2-13 from deep. The Clippers managed to win two of those, but Paul's ineffectiveness on offense probably cost them the Cleveland game, though there were plenty of other problems to be sure. It goes without saying that the Clippers need Paul to be a scorer as well as a playmaker to be at their best.
  • Hot Barnes. Balancing out Paul's cold shooting has been some red-hot shooting from Matt Barnes. A career 33% three point shooting coming into the season, Barnes has made 29-61 three pointers in his last 11 games to raise his season percentage close to 40% from deep. As much concern as there was about the small forward position heading into the season, and as bad as the second string options (who are all gone now) were, Barnes has actually been very good this season.
  • Three point shooting. Barnes's shooting (along with the likes of J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford and Paul) is a big reason that the Clippers are second in the league in three pointers made and fourth in three point percentage.
  • Tayshaun Prince. The Celtics acquired Tayshaun Prince as part of the trade that sent Jeff Green to Memphis, but Prince clearly does not fit into Boston's plans. The story is that Boston will try to trade Prince, but if no deals can be found (and honestly, who would trade for Prince's current contract?) then they will likely buy him out. If that happens, the Clippers will be among the teams who line up to try to sign him. The hard-capped Clippers can only offer Prince the vet's min and a role, but that will probably be enough to lure the southern California native back home. I'd put the likelihood that Prince winds up on the Clippers roster in the next couple of weeks at about 80%.
  • Douglas-Roberts waived. Former Clipper Chris Douglas-Roberts, who was traded to the Celtics as part of the deal that brought Austin Rivers to the Clippers, was waived by the Celtics yesterday.
  • Doc's replacement. I remain surprised by the Celtics hiring of Stevens. If one of the reasons for allowing Rivers to leave was to save the $21M or so he had left on his contract, then how does it make sense to pay $22M to Stevens? Yes, that's for a six year contract, but rebuilding teams don't tend to be super patient -- I would have put the over-under on Stevens tenure with the Celtics at way less than three years prior to the start of this season. Not to mention that college coaches don't exactly have the greatest track record of translating in the NBA. I loved Stevens' Butler teams and I'll be interested to see how he does in the NBA, but I just find the whole thing very risky, especially given that Danny Ainge keeps trading away the good players.
  • Banners. As the story goes, it was as the Clippers were shellacking the Celtics by 29 two years ago in STAPLES Center that Doc Rivers glanced up at the Lakers championship banners and wondered why the Clippers didn't cover them during their home games.
  • Connections. There are quite a few connections between these two teams at this point, starting with the most obvious one in coach Doc Rivers, one of the rare examples of a coach who was traded between teams. Doc has since added former Celtic Glen Davis to his roster and is considering adding the recently waived Nate Robinson, another former Celtic. Last week the Clippers traded for Doc's son, Austin Rivers from Boston, though Austin never actually played for Boston. Boston acquired Chris Douglas-Roberts in that deal, but waived him soon after. Boston owns LA's first round pick next June from the Doc Rivers deal and their 2017 second round pick in the Austin Rivers trade. One little known connection is that the franchises were once traded for each other. In 1978, Buffalo Braves owner John Y. Brown traded franchises with Boston Celtics owner Irv Levin. Levin moved the Braves to San Diego to become the Clippers, and in May of 1981 Levin sold the Clippers to Donald T. Sterling.
  • Get the Boston perspective at Celtics Blog.
  • Wikipedia entry: The Celtic languages (usually pronounced /ˈkɛltɪk/ but sometimes /ˈsɛltɪk/) are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family. The term "Celtic" was first used to describe this language group by Edward Lhuyd in 1707.

    Modern Celtic languages are mostly spoken on the north-western edge of Europe, notably in IrelandScotlandWalesBrittanyCornwall, and the Isle of Man, and can be found spoken on Cape Breton Island. There are also a substantial number of Welsh speakers in the Patagonia area of Argentina. Some people speak Celtic languages in the other Celtic diaspora areas of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In all these areas, the Celtic languages are now only spoken by minorities though there are continuing efforts at revitalization. Welsh is the only Celtic language not classified as "endangered" by UNESCO.

    During the 1st millennium BC, they were spoken across much of Europe, in the Iberian Peninsula, from the Atlantic and North Sea coastlines, up to the Rhine valley and down the Danube valley to the Black Sea, the northern Balkan Peninsula and in central Asia Minor. The spread to Cape Breton and Patagonia occurred in modern times. Celtic languages, particularly Irish, were spoken in Australia before federation in 1901 and are still used there to some extent.