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Clippers-Celtics preview: one more patsy

The Clippers string of seven straight very winnable games comes to a close tonight against the Celtics. After this one, it's time to face the mighty Warriors, so let's take care of business in Boston.

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

March 29th, 2015, 3:00 PM
TD Garden
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
18-11 East 20-23
30-14 West 12-17
27-10 Home 18-18
21-15 Road 14-22
20-21 .500+ 8-26
28-4 .500- 24-14
8-2 L10 6-4
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Avery Bradley
J.J. Redick SG Marcus Smart
Matt Barnes SF Evan Turner
Blake Griffin PF Brandon Bass
DeAndre Jordan C Tyler Zeller
Advanced Stats
96.94 (11th of 30) Pace 98.37 (6th of 30)
109.5 (2nd of 30) ORtg 101.0 (20th of 30)
103.0 (18th of 30) DRtg 102.3 (13th of 30)
Jamal Crawford (shin) Out
Jared Sullinger (foot) Out

The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 1-0):

Date Venue Final

01/19/15 Los Angeles Clippers 102, Celtics 93 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are riding a six game winning streak; one made up of six games there were absolutely supposed to win against overmatched opponents, but still. This one in Boston should be number seven -- but then things get serious again, with the Warriors in L.A. on Tuesday night followed by a quick trip to Portland on Wednesday. Boston isn't exactly New York or Philadelphia, the last two Clipper victims. But then again, Boston barely beat the Knicks by four points in their last game, a couple of nights after the Clippers had been up by 40 on New York. It's possible that the Clippers could be looking past the Celtics to their showdown with the Warriors -- but honestly, even if they look past the Celtics, the Clippers should win. The talent discrepancy is pretty massive here.

The Antagonist:

Celtics GM Danny Ainge has completely dismantled the team over the past 18 months, shedding almost all of his big contracts and veterans while stockpiling a massive number of draft picks -- mostly second rounders, but still. The Celtics would in a great position to cash in their own high draft pick this summer and fast track the rebuild except for one thing -- in the Eastern Conference, it's not enough to be bad. You have to be REALLY bad to get a decent draft pick. As of now, the Celtics are sitting in the eighth seed in the East, potentially missing the lottery. This despite getting rid of their top five scorers and nearly $60M in annual payroll since Doc Rivers last coached there -- which wasn't really that long ago. At 32-40, the Celtic would be 11th in the West -- but in the East, they're battling with Miami, Brooklyn and Charlotte for the final two playoff berths, though it's not clear if any of them actually want to make it to the postseason.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers defense continues to hover a little below the league average. Can they make a serious playoff run without a better defensive effort? We'll see.
  • Playoff seeding. The Clippers have so far done a good job of taking advantage of this soft spot in their schedule to make a move up the Western Conference standings. They've already moved into home court advantage in a pairing with the Blazers if the season were to end today (though the Blazers would retain the four seed because of divisional rules). But both Houston and Memphis are now within reach, each just two games ahead of the Clippers in the standings. The Grizzlies have lost two straight games by a total of 43 points, and are on the road against the Spurs today and both the Rockets and Grizz have a much tougher remaining schedule than the Clippers. At this point, the three seed is very much in play, and the Clippers can even dream of the two seed -- almost unthinkable just over a week ago.
  • Turnover in Boston. Doc Rivers was coaching the Celtics less than two years ago. Among Celtic players he actually coached, there are almost as many on the Clippers (Glen Davis and Nate Robinson) as there are on the Celtics (Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger).
  • 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 is only technically on the roster) is over 26.
  • Clipper bigs. When these teams met in January, the Celtics had absolutely no answer for either DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin. Jordan has only gotten more difficult to handle in the intervening nine weeks, and Griffin is rounding back into form after his elbow surgery. Meanwhile, the Celtics are now without Jared Sullinger. The bottom line is that the Clippers' front court should have a massive advantage once again today.
  • Isaiah Thomas. One thing you have to say for Danny Ainge -- he pounces on opportunities when they present themselves. In the midst of all the downsizing and salary cutting, Ainge had a chance to grab Isaiah Thomas without giving up anything of value, and he did it. Phoenix had given up on their IT experiment, essentially admitting that they had overpaid the diminutive Thomas over the summer. But Ainge was willing to take on the salary to lock up a young player who has proven that he can score at the NBA level. The bad news for the Clippers is that Thomas was a Clipper-killer when he was in Sacramento.
  • Three point shooting. The Clippers are making 37.5% of their threes this season, third in the league behind the Warriors and Hawks (notice a pattern there?) J.J. Redick (.429), Chris Paul (.384) and Matt Barnes (.383) are all well above their career percentages with Redick and Barnes hitting at career high levels from deep. As a team they've averaged 11.5 threes while making over 40% over their last 13 games. Is any of this sustainable? It's impossible to know, but as long as the Clippers are shooting like that, they will be very, very tough to beat.
  • Doc's replacement. I remain surprised by the Celtics hiring of Brad 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. Having said all of that, Stevens certainly seems to have his young players in Boston bought in to his approach.
  • 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 also Nate Robinson (though technically Robinson is not on the roster at this instant as the Clippers contemplate what to do following Nate's second ten day deal). Then there's Doc's son, Austin Rivers, whom the Clippers acquired from Boston, though Austin never actually played for the Celtics. 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: Celtic music is a broad grouping of musical genres that evolved out of the folk musical traditions of the Celtic people of Western Europe. It refers to both orally-transmitted traditional music and recorded music and the styles vary considerably to include everything from "trad" (traditional) music to a wide range of hybrids.

    Celtic music means two things mainly. First, it is the music of the peoples identifying themselves as Celts. Secondly, it refers to whatever qualities may be unique to the musics of the Celtic Nations. Many notable Celtic musicians such as Alan Stivell and Paddy Moloney claim that the different Celtic musics have much in common