Celtics-Clippers review: Boston derailed trying to get season on track


Celtics-Clippers review: Boston derailed trying to get season on track

LOS ANGELES You can throw one more log on to the stack of 'good, but not good enough' performances by the Boston Celtics following Thursday's 106-77 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. 
It was the kind of performance that validated in many ways why the Clippers are the best team in the NBA now, and the Celtics are still trying to establish an identity other than being wildly inconsistent when it comes to winning. 
Boston (14-14) will surely see this most recent loss as another game to learn from, to build off of moving forward.
But with more than a third of the season in the books, it's becoming harder to envision that the Celtics will be anything more than what folks have seen thus far which is a team that consistently fails to string together more than a couple of wins at a time. 
The losses have clearly been disappointing, but that disappointment is trending more and more towards frustration that this team assembled with the goal of competing for a championship barely resembles a team that can get into the playoffs. 
Before the game, Doc Rivers reminded reporters that the C's are like a number of teams who are still trying to find their way this season. 
"Some team has to do what they say and take off," Rivers said. "I'm hoping it's us."
Well, Rivers -- and the Celtics -- are still in wishful thinking mode after being derailed in yet another opportunity to get their season on track.
Here are some of the keys identified prior to the C's worst loss of the season, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Keeping the game close will be essential to the Celtics' chances of winning. The Clippers are in 'show-no-mercy' mode every game which is evident by them averaging a league-best margin of victory of 9.7 points per game. During their current franchise-best 14 game winning streak, they have upped the differential to 15.4 per game. 
WHAT WE SAW: Boston found itself down 15-4 -- no, make that 16-4 after officials reviewed a 2-point shot by Willie Green and later changed it to a 3-pointer -- to start and things never really got any better. There's a reason why the Clippers have the league's best record.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Rajon Rondo vs Chris Paul: There's no love lost between these two, and that was before Danny Ainge unsuccessfully tried to trade Rondo to New Orleans for Paul a couple years ago. Both will play the 'it's a team game' card, for sure. But make no mistake about it; these two will do what they can to one-up the other and of course, come away with the win.
WHAT WE SAW: Both players had similar games statistically, but there was no mistaking Paul's imprint on the Clippers' strong showing. Rondo had moments, but there was never a point in the game where Rondo's play seemed to elevate the play of his teammates. 

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green is the epitome of a hot and cold player this year who on some nights dominates while on others flat-out disappears. The magic number for him is 15; as in, 15 points scored. When he does that, the Celtics are 6-2 this season. 
WHAT WE SAW: Green had a play here and there, but once again was a non-factor on a night when the C's really needed him to be great or at the very least, very good. 8 points on 3-for-9 shooting on the road against a team this good? That's not going to cut it. 

STAT TO TRACK: Boston's transition defense gets challenged every night, but few team lives on the run like the Clippers. They average 17.8 fast-break points per game which ranks third in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics defense has given up 12 fast-break points per game which is the fifth-stingiest mark in the league. 
WHAT WE SAW: The C's did a decent job of limiting the Clippers' transition game to 15 points. That would prove to be the least of the C's problems as the Clippers seemed to do anything and everything they wanted, all game.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat


WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?


Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.