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Game Preview: New-Look Clippers Face Celtics in Boston

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Following a very eventful trade deadline, fans will get their first look at some of the new members of the LA Clippers in action against the Boston Celtics.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information

Where: TD Garden - Boston, MA

When: 5:00 p.m. PST

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket

How to Listen: AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

LA Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Garrett Temple, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac

Boston Celtics: Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Al Horford

Injuries

Clippers: Wilson Chandler (Quad) - Out, Luc Mbah a Moute (Knee) - Out

Celtics: Aron Baynes (Foot) - Out, Daniel Theis (Knee) - Questionable

The Big Picture

This isn’t the first matchup for the LA Clippers following the trade deadline, but it will be our first opportunity to see most of the newcomers in action. Wilson Chandler won’t be available, but we’ll get our first look at Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet, JaMychal Green, and Garrett Temple with the Clippers. Following the departures of Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, Avery Bradley, Marcin Gortat, and Milos Teodosic, we are likely to see rotations and sets we aren’t accustomed to seeing.

Ivica Zubac, likely to start for the Clippers tonight, provides a more traditional presence at center than they’ve had in some time. At just 21 years of age, standing 7’1” tall, Zubac averaged 8.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game in 15.6 minutes of play with the Los Angeles Lakers, while shooting 58% from the field and 86.4% from the free throw line; extrapolate those figures to 36 minutes per game, and Zubac averages 19.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game, excellent production especially given his age and the lack of floor spacing he had previously. He has a nice touch and provides some offensive versatility that the Clippers could really use. He will be entering restricted free agency this summer, so there’s also a solid chance the Clippers can keep him a part of their future plans and at an affordable price tag.

Landry Shamet, who is likely to get meaningful minutes tonight off the bench for the Clippers, provides reliable outside shooting for a team needing it from their guard rotation. With the Philadelphia 76ers, as a rookie, Shamet played 54 games and averaged 8.3 points per game while shooting 40.4% from beyond the arc on a staggering 4.5 attempts in just 20.5 minutes. Standing 6’5” and at just 21 years-old, Shamet is on a very team-friendly rookie deal and someone who can grow with the Clippers and become an integral part of their efficient offensive rotation.

JaMychal Green, who played 41 games with the Memphis Grizzlies this season, averaged 9.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 48.4% from the field, 39.6% from three (on 2.3 attempts), and 78.8% from the line; he also did so in just 21.9 minutes per game, and is likely to see a bump in playing time with the Clippers. At 28 years of age, his production has remained pretty consistent, and he can be relied upon to box-out well at the defensive end, and bring energy and spacing at the offensive end.

Garrett Temple is likely to see meaningful minutes tonight due to the lack of depth at forward following the departures of Tobias Harris and Mike Scott, as well as the injuries of Wilson Chandler and Luc Mbah a Moute. A 6’6” wing player with veteran savvy at 32 years of age, Temple played 49 games for the Grizzlies this season, averaging 9.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1 steal per game while shooting 35.2% from three (on 4.3 attempts) in 31.2 minutes. He’s unlikely to get the same kind of minutes from the Clippers beyond tonight, but he adds a great two-way dynamic and will be a great locker room presence for a team that has gotten considerably younger since this time a year ago.

While the departure of Tobias Harris is a major loss for them at both ends of the floor, the Clippers managed to actually upgrade the rest of their roster. They have improved their efficiency, spacing, rebounding, and overall versatility in just a span of days, which should all serve them well in tonight’s matchup.

The Antagonist

The Boston Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games, losing only to the Golden State Warriors and the Lakers (off an uncharacteristic Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater) during that span. The Celtics currently rank 9th in Offensive Rating and 5th in Defensive Rating, one of only 3 teams to rank top-10 in both categories (Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors being the other two). The Celtics are a tough matchup at both ends of the floor because of their combination of excellent outside shooting (3rd in 3-point attempts per game, 6th in 3-point percentage), ball movement (26.5 assists per game, ranking 5th in the NBA), passing lane defense (8.9 steals per game, ranking 4th in the NBA), and rim protection (5.8 blocks per game, ranking 3rd in the NBA).

Kyrie Irving, who is having another All-Star season, is averaging 23.8 points, 7.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 49.8% from the field, 40.7% from beyond the arc (on 6.3 attempts), and 86.2% from the free throw line. Irving is easily the most impactful offensive weapon for this dynamic Celtics team and is one of the toughest players to guard in all of the NBA.

Expect the Celtics to carry their recent trend into the postseason, and to be a very tough matchup on the road for the recently-revamped Clippers.

Notes

  • Free throw shooting will be a key factor in tonight’s matchup. It’s difficult to gather much from the Clippers season rankings thus far because there has been so much roster change in a matter of days, but they currently rank 1st in the league in both attempts (28.1) and makes (22.1) per game. Conversely, the Celtics rank 26th in free throws made per game (15.6) and just 29th in attempts (19.1). If the Clippers can get going from the line early on, it will give them a much-needed edge to start the night.
  • Pace of play will also be a major factor in tonight’s matchup. While Boston is a very effective team in the half-court, they rank just 18th in the league in Pace despite their combined youth and athleticism. Conversely, the Clippers rank 9th in Pace and score highly-efficiently from everywhere on the floor, whether in transition or in the half-court.
  • The Clippers have been extremely turnover-prone as of late, and the Celtics feast on deflections and passing lane miscues. The Clippers must take care of the ball and prevent easy fast-break opportunities to pull out a win tonight.
  • While Doc Rivers has established a nice foundation and generally manages his rotations pretty effectively, the group that takes the floor tonight for the Clippers may not jell so quickly. Fans should be excited, however, for the opportunity to see a nicely-revamped roster that is still equipped for a postseason hunt. The Western Conference playoff race is pretty tight at the bottom, but the 8th place Clippers look to at least hang around for a bit.

Be sure to check out the Celtics perspective over at CelticsBlog.