L.A. versus Boston.
Boston versus L.A.
Two of the biggest sports cities in the world face off.
Sure, this matchup between the Clippers and the Celtics might not be as exciting or noteworthy as the 2018 World Series between the Dodgers and the Red Sox or the 2010 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics.
But it still will be L.A. vs. Boston. And the injury-plagued Clippers will try to come out on top against the ninth-seeded Celtics.
They will need to play better than they’ve played recently, though. In their last five games, the Clippers have dropped two contests in last-minute defeats, both by a single possession.
Although we can point fingers at missing players and COVID protocols, it’s also true that the Clippers get sloppy on both ends of the floor, especially nearing the end of the 48-minute mark.
In a three-point loss against Denver Nuggets on Boxing Day, it came down to a poor last-second decision by rookie Brandon Boston Jr.
And it was an insufficient defensive effort by Nicolas Batum in the final seconds against Oklahoma City that lost the game.
Although it seems unlikely that tomorrow’s matchup will come down to the final shot, the team’s focus and decision-making are two things that could use some work.
The Clippers, fourth in defensive rating, are hard to beat when the team’s bigs like Ivica Zubac and Serge Ibaka are boxing players out, preventing easy second-chance put-backs. Or when they are able to slow opponents down on the break, not giving up any easy looks in the paint.
Celtics star Jaylen Brown will be the biggest threat to the Boston defense. His athleticism allows him to finish strong over defenders at the rim, and he’s continued to develop his long-range game. Since his return from injury, the 25-year-old has been gaining some traction: he’s logging an impressive 25.3 points and six rebounds per game.
Putting Eric Bledsoe (who is fresh off of reaching 1,000 career steals, in case you forgot) or a longer Terance Mann on Brown could be the key to cooling off his hot hand.
On the other side of the floor, the Clippers will look to veteran forward Marcus Morris Sr., who has stayed on fire even after missing games due to COVID protocols; in the last three games, he’s averaging 24 points shooting an efficient 53 percent from the field. He’ll need some help against the Celtics, however, even if Boston is similarly shorthanded.
While the stakes are limited in this L.A.-Boston showdown, the two teams still need a victory for their own individual momentum as they navigate a tough stretch of the season.
When: Wednesday, December 29 at 4:30 p.m. PT
Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN
Opposing perspective: Celtics Blog
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Eric Bledsoe, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
Celtics: Payton Pritchard, Romeo Langford, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Robert Williams
Clippers: Nicolas Batum, Paul George, Isaiah Hartenstein, Reggie Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston, Jay Scrubb, Moses Wright — OUT
Celtics: Marcus Smart — QUESTIONABLE; Bruno Fernando, Enes Freedom, CJ Miles, Aaron Nesmith, Dennis Schröder, Jayson Tatum — OUT