1/24 Game Preview: Celtics at Clippers
LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers' worlds will collide Wednesday at Staples Center when his Los Angeles Clippers host the Boston Celtics.
And it will be a matchup of a Clippers team looking for some stability after two consecutive defeats versus a Celtics team leading the Eastern Conference, but in something of a stunned state after losing four consecutive games.
Rivers famously guided the 2008 Celtics to an NBA title behind the likes of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, finishing off the Los Angeles Lakers in the process. L.A. is Rivers' outpost now, but the Clippers are his team.
And there is some sentiment that even though he orchestrated the Celtics' most recent title 10 years ago, and nearly had another two years later, falling in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, this might actually be his best coaching job.
So how does a team one-half game out of a playoff spot compare to a championship squad?
Considering all the injuries the Clippers (23-23) have experienced, from Blake Griffin to DeAndre Jordan, Danilo Gallinari, Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverley, possessing a .500 record has earned Rivers rave reviews.
"Those little things we keep reiterating to our guys is that you can still win games no matter what the score is, (or) how far you're down," Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. "We were down (12) the other night and we just keep coming. So, I think that's been the difference. We don't get down when we get down."
The Celtics (34-14) are actually in need of some motivators as well. They lost three consecutive home games, starting with an overtime defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 16, then lost Tuesday to the Lakers in the first of back-to-back games in L.A.
After the Clippers on Wednesday, the Celtics face the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. They head to Denver on Monday before returning home next Wednesday.
"One game at a time; one meeting at a time," Celtics coach Brad Stevens told the Boston Globe. "Everything else, we'll figure out how to play better. I thought we actually did some things better (in a loss to Orlando on Sunday), especially on the offensive end in the first half. But you've got to play both ends. You've got to put it all together."
The Celtics' recent stumbles started after a victory at London on Jan. 11 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Their body clocks still seem to be out of whack.
Despite a season when they have used more than 20 separate starting lineups, the Clippers have shown they are not a team that should be overlooked. Buoyed by the return of Griffin from a knee injury in late December, they have won 12 of their last 17 games despite their two-game slide.
Guard Lou Williams continues to be an offensive force for the Clippers, even if he was an All-Star Game snub despite pouring in 23.3 points per game. The Clippers will needed every bit of his abilities Wednesday with Jordan (ankle) doubtful, while Rivers (ankle), Gallinari (glute) and Jawun Evans (abdomen) will not play.
The Celtics are still without guard/forward Gordon Hayward, who was lost in the season opener with a leg injury, and have been missing forward Guerschon Yabusele for the past week because of an illness.