PREGAME REPORT | FEBRUARY 3, 2013

 



Tipoff: 10:00 a.m. PST | TD Garden | Boston, MA | Game Notes »

                           

ERIC PATTEN

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BOSTON – The Clippers are looking to bounce back, the Celtics are looking to keep rolling.

While both teams are dealing with injuries to their lead guards, the Clippers (34-14) have been reeling of late, losing five of their last seven, including four of those games without Chris Paul, who has been out with a bruised right kneecap. Boston (23-23) has won three in row since All-Star Rajon Rondo was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL.

The teams collide Sunday morning at TD Bank Garden.

Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford, who is suffering from a nasal fracture, and Paul will be game-time decisions. 

For the Clippers, who suffered their worst loss of the season Friday night at Toronto, their game in Boston may be come down to consistent energy on both ends of the floor.

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“We watched some film and went through some things,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said following Saturday afternoon’s practice at Boston University. “It’s always about the energy and the effort. It’s about the commitment and togetherness. We’ve got to pick that up a little bit.”

The Clippers hammered the Celtics, 106-77, when they met in L.A. on Dec. 27. It was the most lopsided victory by the Clippers in the history of the series and was the 15th win in their franchise-record 17-game winning streak.

LAST TIME OUT

Raptors 98, Clippers 73: There was not much for the Clippers to take away from Rudy Gay’s debut with the Raptors. They totaled season lows in points, field goal percentage (34.7%) and allowed Gay (20 points off the bench) and the Raptors to make 12 3-pointers.

“We just did a poor job of really locking in on defense,” Blake Griffin said. “Sometimes you can’t control whether you make shots or not, and sometimes other teams make tough shots but you can’t give teams easy buckets. It gets their confidence going and enables them to do a lot of different things in the half court set.”

Griffin, who had 17 points and nine rebounds, was one of several Clippers players who said the biggest problem against Toronto was their lack of energy. Matt Barnes missed the game due to suspension following his altercation with Minnesota’s Greg Stiemsma on Wednesday.

Celtics 97, Magic 84: Boston won its third game in row since Rondo went down, jumping off to an 11-point lead in the first half and withstanding any push from visiting Orlando. The Magic shot just 37.9% and Boston accumulated 30 assists on 42 made field goals. Jeff Green scored a team-high 17 points to lead a bench unit that outscored Orlando, 43-31. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Courtney Lee added 14 points apiece, while Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and 14 rebounds.

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

Caron Butler vs. Paul Pierce. When the Celtics and Clippers met Dec. 27, Pierce went 5-for-13 with just 12 points. A big reason for that was Butler, who defended the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer as well as any player in recent memory. He cut off Pierce’s driving lanes, did not bite on his litany of pump fakes and made it difficult for Pierce to make clean catches at the elbow where he loves to operate.

Del Negro says defending a player like Pierce takes a “total team effort.” It will help that Barnes, who returns from suspension Sunday, can rotate in with Butler to give Pierce, who despite averaging 18.6 points per game was not chosen for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, a different look.

With Rondo out for the season, Pierce’s job has gotten increasingly harder. He has failed to score 20 points in any of the last three games and has been asked to be more of a distributor, totaling 21 assists in that span. 

Butler has been required to do more with Paul out as well. He had eight rebounds against Toronto and scored 19 points in the opening game of the Clippers’ road trip, including a key 3-pointer in the final three minutes.

TWO THINGS TO WATCH

De-Fense, De-Fense. Both teams are among the top 10 in the league in defense (the Clippers are fourth and the Celtics are seventh). However, after a slow start to the season on the defensive end in the first two months of the season, the Celtics were back among the elite in January. They allowed 92.2 points per game in the month (second in the league) and forced 16.9 turnovers per game (second).

Overcoming adversity. The Celtics and Clippers have both been beset by injuries. Rondo and Jared Sullinger (back) are out for the season in Boston, while the Clippers have been without Paul and Chauncey Billups (foot). Crawford is also a game-time decision. The Clippers are 9-8 in their last 17 games, while the Celtics have gone 3-0 without Rondo. Sunday may be all about dealing with adversity.

“We’ve got to handle this schedule right now and handle the injuries and manage it the best we can,” Del Negro said. “Not making any excuses, the guys who are out there have to understand how to play the right way. We’ve had different lineups out there. We’ve got different rotations out there, so we’ve just got to manage it.”

NOTES

Del Negro, who is from Springfield, Mass., said he will a number of friends and family in attendance Sunday afternoon… The Clippers are 2-6 all-time on Super Bowl Sunday… The Celtics are 42-12 against the Clippers in Boston… Griffin is shooting 73% from the foul line over the last 14 games…

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