Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:30 PM PT
How to Watch/Listen: ESPN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Celtics: Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis
Clippers: Patrick Beverley – Kawhi Leonard – Paul George – Moe Harkless – Ivica Zubac
Celtics: Gordon Hayward Out (Hand), Marcus Smart Day-to-Day (Ankle), Romeo Langford Questionable (Ankle)
Clippers: Kawhi Leonard Questionable (Knee), Landry Shamet Out (Ankle)
The Big Picture
This game may not seem like it, but it’s important as hell. Yes, it’s still only November, but the Clippers are 9-5 and not barnstorming the NBA like many thought. Yes, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard still haven’t played together yet (as of writing, we still don’t know if this will happen tonight) but the Clips have been playing a brand of basketball that has been surprising people and not in a good way. Namely, they can’t shoot the ball at all. LA is only 19th in three-point percentage, 21st in threes made per game, and 21st in threes attempted. It shows, as there have been many games where they are way off and consequently, let a worse team hang tight. It’s annoying to watch knowing we have shooters like Patrick Beverley, JaMychal Green, and Landry Shamet (before his injury) who are all 40% three point shooters. Hell, even Kawhi has been struggling from deep, shooting only 28.6%. The Clips have relied too much on the heroics of a few — namely PG and Kawhi in the fourth, as well as a bit from Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams — rather than a whole team effort most games.
Tonight can’t be like that. In order to beat a very stout, efficient, and well-coached Celtics team at home, LA will need solid efforts from the whole squad. This isn’t the Thunder, this isn’t the Blazers, and this isn’t the Pelicans. The Clippers will do themselves a favor in the national media, give their fans fewer heart attacks, and boost the confidence of the squad by winning tonight’s contest. Hopefully we see a healthy Kawhi. Do I think he’s actually going to play? No. But it would make what should be an awesome game that much doper.
Isn’t it weird what happens when you remove a damaging defect to the body of a whole? In the face of the exodus of Kyrie Irving, the Celtics are absolutely humming with an 11-2 record. You add all-around nice guy, and perennial All-Star, Kemba Walker to a young squad that has already seen success. You sprinkle in a coach that is generally considered one of the best in the NBA. Then you add a dash of a great front office and what do you get? That cocktail generally screams success. I expected this team to compete for a 4-5 seed and be a tough out against the Sixers or Bucks. As of right now, the Celtics are the absolute class of the conference, and if it wasn’t for the ghost of Wilt Chamberlain blowing out Marcus Smart’s floater against the Kings a few nights ago, Boston would have an unheard-of 12-game win streak going right now.
To put it plainly, they play well together, they’ve bought in, and they can hit you with multiple people all over the floor. If it’s not Kemba hitting you with a setback three, then it’s Tatum getting in a mid-range groove. If it’s not Jaylen Brown getting to the rim, it’s Marcus Smart doing so. If it’s not Theis or Kanter making plays in the post, then it’s Robert Williams III skying for lobs. They are dangerous right now and, despite being one of the shorter teams in the league, are great at protecting the rim. Riddle me that soldier. If the Clippers are sans-Kawhi and aren’t hitting shots, it could get ugly quick.
Play Ivica Zubac more minutes: Here’s a nifty little stat. In games that Zubac plays 20 or more minutes, the Clippers are 3-0. If his minutes are shifted down a bit to 17+ minutes, the Clips are 5-1. Zu is absolutely crushing it defensively and is super efficient offensively. I know I’m kind of beating a dead horse here, but he should be getting 22-25 minutes easily.
Terance Mann is such a cool story: Think about how rare it is that the 48th pick in the draft make an impact in his rookie season. This early in his rookie season at that. Mann has been starting in the recent absence of Kawhi Leonard, and despite not showing too much confidence in his shot, is still aggressive in attempting to get to the rim, playing stellar defense (did a great job against SGA Monday), and passing and rebounding well. The Clips traded up into the draft to get Mfiondu Kabangele, but his Seminole teammate might have been the real prize moving forward.
Jayson Tatum is a freak in the fourth: