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Clippers-Celtics Preview: Snubs, Slumps, and Scuttlebutt

Will the Clippers begin feeling pain that’s more than physical?

NBA: Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture:

Lou Williams is coping with his All-Star snub, DeAndre Jordan is dealing with a possible move, and the Clippers are still managing a seemingly unstoppable stream of injuries. But every little thing gonna be alright. Right?

DeAndre Jordan might return tonight. There was no official word at the time of this writing, but maybe I just couldn’t find it buried among all the hypothetical trade pieces. I’m sure it’s nice to be coveted -- I wouldn’t know — but I’m sure it’s distracting too. And that’s one word that hasn’t been floated around this year’s Clippers campaign. Distracted. A team besieged by injuries has remained uncannily focused.

With the trade deadline approaching and the team dangling off the bottom of the playoff bracket, that focus will be tested. And the trade deadline will come about as quickly as Austin Rivers and Danilo Gallinari are expected to. Management will be challenged to plot a course that either emphasizes the now or hoards for later. It’s an important stretch, this one, and it may wield unusual influence over the next several.

The Antagonist:

After dramatically reshaping their first-seeded roster and fearing it had crumpled to the floor after just six minutes, the Celtics have scrapped their way to the East’s winningest record. Their defense, their most notable attribute beside exquisite coaching, blends the explosion of youth, the savvy of experience, and the malleability of a roster deep in wings. Kyrie Irving’s individual brilliance has kept things functional when they have the ball.

The combination of adequate offense and stellar defense has been a successful one, but the offense is backsliding through a recent slump. Their loss to the Lakers last night was their fourth in a row. Perhaps back-to-back games sandwiching a — fingers crossed — overzealous night out in Los Angeles will take even more spring out of some of those legs. See? Not everything in sports has to go Boston’s way.

The Basics:

The Subplots: