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Clippers try and end road trip on high note against Celtics

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Looking for a perfect 4-0 road trip, the Clippers head to Boston to take on the red-hot Celtics.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 NBA Regular Season
vs.
Boston Celtics (31-23, 3rd in East)

Los Angeles Clippers (35-17, 4th in West)
February 10, 2016 — 4:30 PM PDT
TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
31-23 Record 35-17
23-16 East 18-5
8-7 West 17-12
7-5 Division 5-4
16-10 Home 17-8
15-13 Road 18-9
12-16 .500+ 7-12
19-7 .500– 25-5
0-2 OT 4-0
8-2 L10 8-2
Projected Starters
Isaiah Thomas PG Chris Paul
Avery Bradley SG J.J. Redick
Jae Crowder SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Amir Johnson PF Paul Pierce
Jared Sullinger C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
100 (6th) Pace 98.2 (14th)
103.0 (10th) OffRtg 105.9 (5th)
98.9 (2nd) DefRtg 100.6 (7th)
4.0 (7th) NetRtg 5.3 (5th)
Injury Report


Blake Griffin (hand) out

Austin Rivers (hand) out

What's new with the Clippers?

The Clips got a scare Monday night in Philadelphia but were ultimately able to squeak out a win against the league's worst team. They've now won three straight overall and are 18-4 since Blake Griffin was sidelined just after Christmas. They've had to gut-out several of their wins over the last couple of weeks, which is a clear sign that the All-Star break is coming at a good time.

What's new with the Celtics?

Boston has been rolling of late having won eight of their last 10 games after losing to the Bucks on Tuesday. They've made most of their hay defensively this season, as they rank No. 2 in the league (behind San Antonio) in defensive efficiency. The names on their roster won't blow you away, but it's a team full of good-but-not-great players that have blended well together. Isaiah Thomas is the lone current All-Star among the group (David Lee was an All-Star once upon a time, as well), but the Celtics are a strength-in-numbers type of team helmed by one of the smartest coaches in the league, Brad Stevens.

They aren't one of the better shooting teams out there, though they've topped the 100-point plateau in 16 of their last 17 overall. Thomas is what makes the Celtics run, but they also have a frontcourt loaded with guys that all seem to excel in different areas. Kelly Olynyk stretches the floor, Jared Sullinger is one of the better rebounders in the league (per rebound rate) and Amir Johnson is excellent defensively. Tyler Zeller has even found his way back into the rotation lately, and we can expect to see him deployed to go against DeAndre Jordan at times in this game. In Jonas Jerebko and Jae Crowder, Boston has a couple of guys capable of defending multiple positions while providing offensive matchup problems, as well. Stevens has all sorts of lineup combinations at his disposal, and he's been good about putting his players in positions to succeed all year long.

Alongside the offensive-minded Thomas in the backcourt, the Celtics also have a couple of bulldog defenders, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. Bradley's also enjoying his finest offensive season to date, averaging 15 points per game on solid 37% shooting from deep. Smart remains a work-in-progress on that side of the ball, but you're not going to find a more physical point guard anywhere else in the league. Evan Turner remains a basketball player that exists.

They may not be a true title contender given their lack of star power, but the Celtics are going to prove to be quite problematic for some teams come playoff time.

Boston swan song for Paul Pierce?

Paul Pierce sat out of Monday's near-debacle against the 76ers but is expected to return to the starting lineup for this one. It will be the Clippers' lone trip to Beantown (barring a possible Finals matchup) of the season, but could it also be Pierce's final game at the Garden? Pierce played the first 15 seasons of his career with the Celtics, culminating in the 2008 championship. Pierce has considered retirement during each of the last few offseasons, and, in the midst of his worst statistical season to date, it's not unreasonable to think this could be his final NBA campaign. As always, expect him to receive quite the warm ovation.

Future trade partners?

Boston's desire to find themselves a superstar has been no secret, so, naturally, speculation has been rampant that they're surveying the trade market as the deadline approaches. There has also been plenty of talk over the last few weeks that the Clippers are interested in possibly shaking things up with a big deal of their own. Given LAC's star-laden core and Boston's bevy of trade assets, could the sides eventually come together and get something done?

In the middle of the season that seems extremely unlikely. The Celtics may well swing a deal of some sort, but the Clippers seem more likely to wait until the offseason to do anything drastic, as indicated last week by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Boston's treasure trove includes Brooklyn's unprotected first round pick in the upcoming draft that may wind up winning the lottery. If it does, you can imagine Danny Ainge will be fielding calls from all over the league regarding its availability. As far as players go, guys like Bradley, Crowder, Sullinger and Olynyk are frequently mentioned in rumors, though the Celtics won't just make a deal to make a deal.

Matchup to watch

Isaiah Thomas vs. Chris Paul

As mentioned above, Thomas is in the midst of a career year. He leads the Celtics in scoring (21.4) and assists (6.6) while ranking fourth in three-point percentage (35%). Despite being under six feet tall, he's an excellent finisher at the rim and has a series of funky floaters that he can hit at a regular rate, as well. Isaiah's definitely what you'd call a "score-first point guard" and he's making the most of his chance to be the full-time starter in his first full season with the Celtics.

He's not the strongest defender, though, and he'll obviously have his hands full trying to stick with Chris Paul. CP3 is one of many Clippers that should benefit from the extended All-Star break as he's connecting on only 38.6% of his shots through four February games thus far. Playing 40 minutes against the Sixers won't be helpful, but it seems safe to assume Chris will be ready to deliver in a big game against a quality opponent.

Boston-based celebrity we should irrationally hate for a few hours

Matt Damon

He's Matt Damon! Jimmy Kimmel fake hates him, so you should fake hate him, too. He was in a movie called "We Bought A Zoo", which effectively cancels out any good work he'd done previously or has done since. Tough break, Matt. Damon (apparently) also made an appearance in something called "Mystic Pizza", which should be enough to provoke calls for his permanent suspension from the Screen Actors Guild. Also, he's from Boston. Screw that.

Game day song(s) of choice

This game is in Boston, of course, but I refuse to include that awful, awful Dropkick Murphys song. You know the one. It sucks. Instead, we'll roll Aerosmith out there:

And Guster!

And we'll cap it off with J. Geils Band and the one song of theirs that's even remotely relevant:

Greatness, all of it. Don't @ me.

The Clippers will try to head into the break with a big win in Boston starting at 4:30pm PT.