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Proceed with caution: Celtics vs. Clippers preview

 

 The Los Angeles Clippers are not a good basketball team. The departure of Elton Brand who headed east after helping convince Baron Davis to sign with the team started the domino effect of a rough year in la la land. The Clips have been decimated by injuries all season long forcing starting lineups that included Fred Jones, Mardy Collins, and DeAndre Jordan at various points of the year. The team ranks at the bottom of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency (27th and 30th respectively.)

Despite their shortcomings the Clips have started to get healthy again winning 4 of their last 8 with a couple of those losses coming shorthanded. (Zach Randolph suspended for 2 of them and Marcus Camby missed some time with an ear infection) Both of these big men will be back tonight which will allow the Clippers to field a front line that will challenge the depleted Celtics bigs on the defensive end. Put those guys together with an offensive minded Al Thornton, an impressive rookie in Eric Gordon, and a potentially motivated Baron Davis and the C’s could have a real game on their hands this evening in the Staples Center.

With tonight’s game being the final jaunt on the Celtics six game road swing, it could be easy to label this one as a trap game. With the way Doc Rivers is coaching I find that theory to be a difficult notion to buy into. Could this game be a challenge for the Celtics? Absolutely. Will Doc Rivers let his team overlook the Clips? No chance.

After such impressive wins in Denver and Phoenix without Garnett, it has been tough to talk myself into giving the Clippers any chance in this game. The Celtics did luck out in both of those contests as far as big men go with injuries keeping Amare and Nene out of action against the green. Tonight in LA will be the first time the C’s will face two legitimate NBA big men in the same starting lineup with KG out. This situation begs an important question.

Who will get the start at PF with Scalabrine out: Leon Powe or Glen Davis?  My educated guess would be Big Baby given how much run he got in Denver with the starting lineup once Scalabrine went down. His big body also appears to be a better defensive matchup than Powe against Randolph. It will be interesting to see if Doc sticks with Davis on Randolph or puts Kendrick Perkins on him in an attempt to slow him down. I don’t see that situation to be likely though since Big Baby will have just as big of a problem guarding Camby.

All things considered the biggest key to this game is for the Celtics defense is to stay out of foul trouble and not let Randolph get into any kind of groove on the offensive end. The double teams will likely come early and often from the C’s and the team will have to be on their game as far as rotations go to make sure they are not beaten by the other offensive weapons the Clippers have on the perimeter.  More thoughts after the jump. 

Offensively the thing to watch for is for the Celtics is to come out of the gate running and in turn not give an abysmal Clippers team a reason to put up much resistance in this game. The Celtics did this beautifully in the game Monday Night by getting out in transition and moving the ball exceptionally in the offense. We know the Clippers can score points but we also know they won’t play defense given their last place ranking in defensive efficiency. Doc Rivers will have his guys salivating at the opportunities for points and it wouldn’t surprise me to see another 120 point performance out of this team.

One last thing: We should see the debut of Mikki Moore in a Celtic uniform this evening. It will be interesting to watch how much he will play but given the C’s situation up front and the Clippers big men Doc really won’t have of a choice; Moore is going to have to log at least 15-20 minutes. Maybe more if Perkins or Davis get into foul trouble early which is certainly possible if not probable for this one.   

 I look for the Celtics to come out running and demoralize the Clippers early in this one, and make this one a laugher. I know I am not alone in hoping to see some more positive garbage play out of Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens after an impressive few minutes in Denver. Here’s hoping the Clippers are willing to lay down and allow for this opportunity.

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