Watch It! - Celtics at Clippers
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets meet at 10:30 p.m. tonight at the STAPLES Center.
Very Different Clippers
The Celtics and the Clippers met nearly a month ago, on Dec. 11 at TD Garden, when Los Angeles pulled out a 96-88 victory. The contest was close throughout and was a one-possession game in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Clippers were considered to be a title contender when they came to town and are still are considered as such, but their current team is much different than the one that played in Boston last month.
Los Angeles is likely to be without All-Star point guard Chris Paul for the next six weeks. He separated the AC joint in his right shoulder Friday night while playing against the Mavericks.
Paul’s absence drastically changes this Clippers team. He is an MVP-type player who leads the league in assists while also scoring about 20.0 points per game. Los Angeles is now relying on Darren Collison to hold down the starting point guard role, and he is nowhere near the player that Paul is.
Tuesday night’s 129-98 loss at the hands of the Nuggets was a tough pill to swallow for the Celtics. Now, in the second night of a back-to-back, they must take the court at the Staples Center to take on a very talented Clippers team.
Tonight’s game is going to be all about mental toughness for Boston. The C’s have all of the excuses in the world to go out and play a lackluster game. What they need to do is battle through those excuses and play an inspired game with energy and passion. If they display the mental toughness that’s necessary to overcome a challenging situation, their physical play will follow.
Defending the High Pick-and-Roll
Brad Stevens singled out one main issue that the Celtics have experienced during their recent skid: defending the high pick-and-roll. He said that the team is going to need to reassess the way it’s defending the play and execute its game plan at a much higher level, particularly tonight.
Stevens went on to mention the fact that Collison cut the Celtics up in the high pick-and-roll during the fourth quarter of their meeting last month. The point guard scored eight points, attempted six free throws and dished out an assist while playing the entirety of the final period.
In order to defend the pick-and-roll well, the Celtics need a full team effort. The guards need to pressure the ball, fight through screens and get back to the man they’re defending. The big men must also do their part by being in the right position to prevent the ballhandler from turning the corner and attacking the basket.
Tuesday’s Silver Lining
We’ve already covered the fact that Tuesday’s game was a brutal one for this Celtics team. That, however, doesn’t mean that there was no silver lining.
Boston snuck out of Denver knowing that its starters should be very well rested for tonight’s game. Three of the team’s five starters played fewer than 27 minutes. Jared Sullinger played just 14, Jordan Crawford played only 21, and Brandon Bass was on the floor for 26.
Having fresh legs in the second night of a back-to-back is very important. Having those fresh legs against a great team is even more critical.
Playing with the Feet
Basketball is all about playing with your feet. If you play with your feet, you can be in position to make a play. If you don’t play with your feet, you attempt to make up for poor positioning by reaching with your hands.
Boston has been reaching with its hands over its past two games. The C’s have committed an average of 27 fouls per game during that timespan. To put that into context, the Sacramento Kings lead the NBA in fouls per game, and they commit an average of just 22.9 fouls a night.
It’s extremely difficult to win games in the NBA, and that task becomes even more difficult when a team is giving an opponent 30-plus opportunities from the free-throw line. The Celtics must play with their feet tonight in Los Angeles and limit the amount of fouls they commit.