3/11 Game Preview: Celtics at Clippers
After dispatching their longtime cross-country rival with relative ease Saturday, the Boston Celtics will return to the same building Monday night knowing a tougher test awaits.
The Clippers have proven to be the best Los Angeles has to offer this season, even after LeBron James moved into town with the Lakers, and they will get a chance to solidify their playoff standing in the Western Conference when they play host to the Celtics.
Boston will enter Monday's finale of a four-game road trip with a chance for a California sweep. Having already defeated the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and Lakers, a victory over the Clippers as well would send the Celtics soaring into the final 14 games of the regular season.
This was no California vacation as the Celtics got down to work and methodically distanced themselves from a four-game losing streak following the All-Star break.
"I think we all just came with a better mindset, realized what we're trying to do here," the Celtics' Marcus Morris said about the team's recent revival, according to the Boston Globe. "Feeling good, man. And then we got to go to L.A., good weather. That might be a big part of it, too."
The Celtics are certainly in a better place than they were as the storm gathered following defeats to the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers.
Kyrie Irving has been leading by example and Morris has done his part, shooting 45 percent from the field over the past three victories.
The duo leading the way for the Clippers of late has been Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams. Los Angeles will enter on a four-game winning streak, and they have also won five of their last six.
Most impressive about the Clippers' run of success is that it has come after a major roster reshuffle as leading-scorer Tobias Harris was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Gallinari returned from injury at the time of the trade deadline and has essentially been a new addition himself.
In a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, Williams scored 40 points, including a late jump shot to open a five-point lead and essentially put the game out of reach. Gallinari scored a season-best 34 in the game.
"We've got great energy in the locker room right now," Williams said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Guys are playing at a high clip, playing with a lot of confidence. So, to make a big shot right there, especially with the stretch that we have coming up, it just felt good at that moment."
At 38-29, the Clippers are in seventh place in the Western Conference but have a four-game cushion on the ninth-place Kings, who rest just outside of playoff eligibility.
At the start of play Sunday, the Celtics were in fifth place in the Eastern Conference just a half game behind the fourth-place 76ers.
While the Celtics have no injuries to report heading into Monday's game, Clippers forward Wilson Chandler is close to returning from a quadriceps injury but is not expected to be available against Boston.