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Clippers-Celtics Preview: Buyers and Sellers

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The team that was supposed to sell visits the team that was supposed to buy.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture:

. . . is the playoff picture, or more specifically, that the Clippers are still in it. Austin Rivers has returned to add depth and stability at guard, something the team has lacked all season. Danilo Gallinari is out to prove that his contract is more than an anchor. The new guys will find better chemistry with the old guys each and every day.

Also: TANKING. The bottom of the standings is rife with teams for whom “win” is a four-letter word. There will be easy wins to be had down the stretch. The Clippers are talented enough to get some tough ones too. This is the last game before the All-Star break, which will give every team a breather before the season’s final leg. What’s that line? Oh, yeah. Fasten your seat belts.

The Antagonist:

Ouch. The Celtics were belted at home by version 1.5 of the 2017-18 Cavaliers and find themselves in a real fight for first. Toronto’s emergence and Cleveland’s teased reemergence means that Boston is no longer guaranteed even a top-two seed, although, admittedly, it’s a long fall to third. But stranger things have happened, and strange things happen when you struggle to score.

The Celtics rely heavily upon Kyrie Irving’s individual brilliance and a well-executed system. But the secondary scoring talent isn’t there to lean upon when the system bogs down. The hoped-for reinforcements didn’t come. The Greg Monroe pickup is nice, but Boston was dangling Marcus Smart in a search for more.

Brad Stevens’ bunch has lost two at home and trailed by 23-plus in three of four. Kyrie has said that they can’t always come back. Lou Williams ain’t walking through that door.

The Basics:

The Subplots: