PREGAME REPORT | DECEMBER 27, 2012

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Tip-off: 7:30 PM | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »

 

Eric Patten

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LOS ANGELES – It seems suitable the Clippers, looking to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 15 games, would face the last team to stack up 14 consecutive victories in a single season.

The Boston Celtics (14-13), winners of 14-straight games in 2010, play the first of three games on the west coast Thursday night at Staples Center.

It is just the third time in the last three years a team has entered a game with a chance to extend a winning streak of 14 games. The previous two were unsuccessful. The Celtics lost in Dec. 2010 and the Spurs, who had a 14-game streak extend through two seasons, lost in Nov. 2012.

“I think a lot of time when you go on streaks, winning, you get sort of complacent. It’s like, ‘Alright, we’ve won enough we can lose one here,” point guard Chris Paul said. “It’s funny with our team, I think right now we’re a little hungrier than we were before this streak started. I think for the simple fact that we don’t want it to end.”

For the Clippers (22-6), who own the best record in the league after Christmas for the first time in franchise history, their sense of urgency, or “hunger” as Paul called it, stems from competition within the roster.

“I think it’s really the competitive spirit between the first and the second team because the second team knows if we play well we’ll keep the starters on the bench,” Matt Barnes said. “So, there’s no complacency. It’s almost the game amongst the game.”

LAST TIME OUT

Clippers 112, Nuggets 100: The Clippers won for the second time in a row on Christmas Day, getting a 64-point game from their vaunted bench. Despite their tenth double-figure victory during their 14-game winning streak, a poor fourth quarter that included a 28.6% shooting effort and three turnovers got the team’s attention. 

“We didn’t finish the game the way we wanted to,” said Lamar Odom, who had six points, 10 rebounds and four assists. “We were sloppy at the end, especially for having played a team that we see again in a week or two. We played well in spurts and in the important times, but this was a close game and a game we could have easily lost.”

Perhaps, there was no more important time than prior to halftime when the Clippers blitzed Denver, swinging a one-point deficit to a 19-point lead with a 42-22 second quarter. Reserves Jamal Crawford and Barnes combined for 21 points in the frame and wound up both topping 20 for the game. Crawford scored 22, while Barnes had 20 points, eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocks.

Denver was led by Kosta Koufos’ 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Celtics 93, Nets 76: The Celtics got a little revenge with a road win at Brooklyn. They had lost their previous two games to the newfound Atlantic Division rivals, including one that resulted in a two-game suspension for Rajon Rondo after a fracas broke out underneath Boston’s basket. On Christmas, there were fewer fireworks, but more a sense of dominance from the up-and-down Celtics. They got 19 points from Rondo, 10 assists from top-scorer Paul Pierce, and double-digit scoring from Jeff Green (15) and rookie Jared Sullinger (16), who matched his career-high. The Nets were paced by 15 points apiece from Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace, but shot just 40.6% from the field in what turned out to be Avery Johnson’s final game as head coach.  

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo. They are the league’s top assist men and among the NBA’s best at stealing the ball, but they also control the game in different ways. Paul is a pass-first point guard and offensive maven, but also dictates everything that happens through the notion that he can score the ball from seemingly anywhere at any time. Rondo can wreak havoc as a slasher and is traditionally one of the league’s best rebounding point guards, but is not as capable of a scorer as his counterpart.

“A lot of times he can control games without scoring,” Paul said of Rondo. “Also, it helps when you have guys like [Kevin Garnett] and Paul Pierce and guys like that. He’s been around a lot veterans for a while and he’s a veteran himself. He’s won a championship.”

Rondo has shown a much-improved mid-range game through the first third of the season. He’s shooting 57% from 16-23 feet, averaging a career-high 3.5 attempts from that range. In his first six seasons, Rondo shot a combined 38% from the same distance.

Paul, who is a significantly better shooter for his career than Rondo, is coming along from the perimeter as well. In the last three games, he’s 9-for-15 from 3-point range after missing nine of his previous 13.

WHAT TO WATCH

The boards. The Celtics are undersized and statistically the poorest rebounding team in the league. They manage just 38.6 boards per game, 3.3 fewer than the Clippers who are 17th.  When Boston has more defensive rebounds than their opponent they are 9-3. However, it’s a telling sign that through 27 games, they have won the defensive rebounding battle fewer than half the time. Boston, known in past seasons for its stingy defense, has allowed 97.0 points per game (tied for 15th) and a 44.9% opponent’s shooting percentage (18th).

NOTES

The Clippers have lost two straight at Staples Center to Boston… Celtics big man and former Clippers first round pick Chris Wilcox (thumb) is out. Without Wilcox the Celtics have a dearth of size in their frontcourt which led to the recent signing of rookie Jarvis Varnado, who had been named D-League player of the week with the Sioux Falls Skyforce… Paul Pierce entered the game averaging a Celtics team-high 20.5 points per game, eighth in the NBA…

FINAL THOUGHT

On playing the Celtics:

Chris Paul: “They are a team that’s made their name off of being good in the playoffs. They’re a veteran team. They don’t get rattled. It doesn’t matter if they’re home or away.”

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