Celtics face CP3 and that other team from LA

Boston Celtics (21-19) at Los Angeles Clippers (23-16)
Monday, March 12
10:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #41,  Road Game #17
Radio:  WEEI, KFWB
Staples Center
Referees:  Jason Phillips, Mark Ayotte,  Derek Richardson
This is the Celtics first and only meeting with the Clippers this season.   The Clippers fortunes have definitely changed.  With Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, they are no longer the doormat and laughing stock of the league.  This won't be an easy game for the Celtics like it might have been in past seasons. 

Both teams are playing in back to back games.  The Celtics played an early game while the Clippers played later.   At least the Celtics didn't have to travel overnight to get to the game.   But fatigue could be a problem since the starters all played around 40 minutes against the Lakers. The Clippers had to put out a lot of effort in their game as well.  Golden State got out to a big lead and the Clippers had to fight to tie the game in the 4th quarter but they couldn't come away with the win.  Hopefully the Celtics will be able to recharge enough to deal with the more athletic Clippers. 

The Celtics are still 7th in the East 2 games behind Atlanta for the 6th seed and 3 1/2 games ahead of New York for 8th.  They also have fallen 3 games behind a suddenly surging Philly for the Atlantic Division.  Lakers fans will be grudgingly cheering for the Celtics in this one as the Clippers are just a game behind the Lakers for the 3rd spot in the West.  They began last night tied for that 3rd spot. 

The Clippers are a high scoring team, ranking 5th in the league with 98.3 points per game but they allow 96.1 points per game.  The Celtics rank 26th in scoring at 90.9 PPG but allow only 89.7 ppg.  The Celtics need to make defense a priority as they won't win in a shoot out.   The Celtics once again face a good rebounding team.  The Clippers are 12th, pulling down 42.9 rebounds per game.  As has been well documented,  the Celtics are last, grabbing only 38.9 rebounds per game.  The Celtics need to rebound and box out as a team. 

The Clippers have been on somewhat of a slide, going just 4-6 in their last 10 games.  The Celtics are 6-4 but are beginning a brutal road trip and it's going to be very tough for the team to stay on a winning track.  The Celtics have slipped to just 5-11 on the road and the Clippers play well at home with a 12-6 record. 

No way around it,  this is going to be a tough game.  The Celtics will need to come out focused and will need to play as a team if they want to pull this one out.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo vs Chris Paul

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen vs Randy Foye 

Small Forward
Paul Pierce vs Caron Butler 

Power Forward
Brandon Bass vs Blake Griffin

Kevin Garnett  vs DeAndre Jordan

Marquis Daniels
Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Avery Bradley
Sasha Pavlovic
Keyon Dooling
Mickael Pietrus 

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Chris Wilcox (cardiac) out
Greg Stiemsma (foot) who knows

Eric Bledsoe
Reggie Evans
Brian Cook
Bobby Simmons
Trey Thompkins
Mo Williams
Travis Leslie

Chauncey Billups (Achilles)  out
Ryan Gomes (illness) questionable
Kenyon Martin (ribs) questionable

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Chris Paul
This is a matchup of 2 All Star point guards.  Rondo always get up to play against the top point guards in the league.  He's going to need to because Chris Paul is a tough matchup.

Brandon Bass vs Blake Griffin
Another tough matchup for Bass.  First Gasol, who had a height advantage and now Griffin who has the advantage with his athleticism.  Bass needs to play him tough.  Griffin may be a bit sore after being thown hard to the court twice down the stretch against Golden State.  To add to the frustration of being thrown to the court, the first time it was called a jump ball and the second, possession was awarded to GS as they said that Griffin grabbed the net.  They were two pretty strange calls. 

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics must make defense a priority.    They played great defense in spurts against the Lakers but down the stretch allowed them to go on an 8-0 run and couldn't get a stop.  They must figure out how to play team defense consistently, instead of in spurts.   

Rebound -  The Celtics need to make an effort to crash the boards, especially on the offensive end.   The Clippers are capable of running on the break if the Celtics don't prevent it by keeping them from getting the rebounds.  Griffin is also very dangerous around the basket getting tip ins and second chance baskets. 

Ball Movement - The Celtics have to move the ball and look for the open man.  They have to play team ball.  They struggled to begin the Lakers game because they were playing too much hero ball. When the Celtics pass the ball and play team ball the offense runs smoothly.  But when they lapse into hero ball, they struggle to score. 

Bench Play - With the team playing in back to back games, and the starters playing big minutes the night before,  the bench is going to need to give the team a lift.  They have to give the starters some rest without giving up the quality of team's play. 

Official Report
Jason Phillips
Phillips has officiated 716 regular season games and 19 playoff games since joining the NBA officiating staff 12 seasons ago. He officiated his first two Finals games during the 2010-11 season. In addition, Phillips has six seasons of experience officiating in the CBA, working the 1999 CBA Finals. He also officiated three seasons in the WNBA, working the 1999 WNBA Finals. Phillips spent five years officiating at the high school level in his home state of Texas. The Celtics are 2-1 this season and they are 4-6 over their last 10 games with Phillips as a ref. The loss this season was to Chicago where the Celtics shot 13 free throws to 21 for the Bulls. One win, Charlotte shot 20 free throws to 8 for the Celtics and the other win was against Cleveland where the Cavs shot 25 free throws to 14 for the Celtics and the refs let the Cavs hack and trip all night with no calls. It was Phillips and crew that got Tommy to swear on the air last season about the refs falling for all the blank blank flops. The Clippers are 0-2 this season and 5-5 with Phillips over their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 17-13.

Mark Ayotte
Mark Ayotte completed his seventh NBA season having officiated 418 regular season games. Prior to joining the NBA, Ayotte was a WNBA official for four years and a CBA official for three years. He spent one year officiating in the NBA Development League. Ayotte has 12 years of collegiate officiating experience. Ayotte also was an official for the preseason and postseason NIT. He has 10 years of high school officiating experience in the state of Arizona. The Celtics are 0-2 this season and 3-7 over their last 10 games with Ayotte. One loss this season was to the Mavs and the officiating was bad for both teams and the other was to OKC and the officiating wasn't too bad. In the 5 losses officiated by Ayotte last season, the Celtics shot 89 free throws to 123 free throws for their opponents. The Clippers are 4-1 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 with Ayotte. Ayotte was one of the refs in the Mavs/OKC game in which Marc Cuban was fined $75,000 for criticizing the referees. Ayotte has a home W/L record this season is 20-12.

Derek Richardson
Richardson has officiated 860 regular season games and one playoff game, as well as the 2003 NBA Rookie Game in Atlanta, during his 14 seasons as an NBA official. Prior to joining the NBA, Richardson spent eight years officiating in the CBA, including the 1996 CBA All-Star game and two games of the 1996 CBA Finals. Richardson played basketball at Los Angeles Southwest College and earned an Associate of Arts degree in Criminal Justice. Richardson is known for being inconsistent with his calls, especially on charge/block calls. The Celtics 0-1 this season and are 7-3 over their last 10 games with Richardson. The Clippers are 0-1 this season and 3-7 over their last 10 games with Richardson as a ref. His home W/L record is 13-16.

Both teams are playing in back to back games.  The Celtics had an early game while the Clippers played late.  The Celtics starters all put in big minutes against the Lakers.  The Clippers are a younger team and the Celtics age may catch up to them.