Watch It! – Celtics at Clippers
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the LA Clippers meet at 10:30 p.m. tonight at Staples Center.
Moving Past the Heartbreak
The Phoenix Suns stole a win right off of Boston’s fingertips last night in the most heartbreaking fashion.
The Celtics were up 106-104 with four seconds remaining and appeared to have their 41st win in the bag, but then Phoenix pulled off a crunch-time miracle of epic proportions. Eric Bledsoe tied the game on a layup, Marquese Chriss then stole Jae Crowder’s inbound pass, and Tyler Ulis hit an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 109-106 win.
It was a stunning end, but Boston’s players were quick to erase it from their memories, setting their focus on their next opponent, the Los Angeles Clippers.
“By the time we land in LA, I’ll be done with this game. Trust me,” Crowder said before leaving Talking Stick Resort Arena.
One benefit of playing a back-to-back is that a team can quickly put a troublesome loss in the rear view mirror. That’s exactly what the C’s will attempt to do tonight when they hit the court at Staples Center.
Clips Back to Full Strength
The Celtics won their first matchup against the Clippers, 107-102, on Feb. 5 in Boston. LA, however, was without the services of star point guard Chris Paul that afternoon.
Paul was sidelined for more than a month after undergoing surgery on his left thumb. He returned to action after the All-Star break and has averaged 17.2 points, 8.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game during the last five contests.
The Clippers are a much different team when they have Paul quarterbacking their offense – they are 29-12 with him on the court this season and just 8-13 during games in which he has been sidelined.
Bradley, Horford Injury Updates
Boston was hindered by the unexpected absences of Avery Bradley (hamstring) and Al Horford (elbow) last night in Phoenix.
Fortunately, at least one of those starters should be able to return to action tonight.
Bradley said yesterday that his hamstring has been a little tight since returning last week from an Achilles injury, but added that he is not concerned about missing any additional time. He was unlikely to play both games of the back-to-back, anyway, so last night gave him an opportunity to rest before tackling the rest of Boston’s West Coast road trip.
Horford’s status, meanwhile, is a little more up in the air.
The big man sprained his elbow Friday night against the Lakers and was too sore to play last night in Phoenix. While it does not appear to be a serious injury, Horford is still listed as questionable vs. the Clippers.
Dealing With DeAndre
If Horford can’t suit up tonight, the Celtics will have a huge obstacle to tackle in the frontcourt in the form of DeAndre Jordan.
The Clippers big man corralled 16 rebounds last month in Boston, but Horford battled him board for board and tallied a season high 15 rebounds of his own.
Horford also limited Jordan to just 2-of-6 shooting and the All-NBA center had a game-low plus/minus rating of minus-20.
Those stats may look much different tonight, however, if the C’s are missing their top big.
Jordan is averaging the third-most rebounds in the league (13.6 RPG) and is shooting a league-high 69.7 percent from the field, meaning he could exploit the interior-challenged Celtics without Horford’s presence.
One Final Goodbye?
Paul Pierce put a stamp on his Celtics legacy last month when he canned a last-second 3-pointer during his final outing at TD Garden.
Barring an NBA Finals matchup, tonight will be Pierce’s last opportunity to face off against his former team.
The soon-to-be-retired, future Hall-of-Famer has not played since the Feb. 5 matchup in Boston; in fact, that is the only appearance he has made since the start of the New Year.
Tonight, however, could provide an opportunity for Pierce to suit up against his former team one final time before hanging up the jersey for good.