Celtics-Clippers review: What we saw . . .


Celtics-Clippers review: What we saw . . .

LOS ANGELES The game got ugly, with defensive stops, bodies flying all over the floor and technical fouls being handed out to many - even Greg Stiemsma.

And the Boston Celtics?

They loved every minute of it.

The C's took the Clippers out of their above-the-rim game, and made it into a grind-it-out affair which clearly favored the Celtics.

With that said, it should come as no surprise that the Celtics came away with a 94-85 win.

Although the C's closed out the game with a 20-7 run, it was their defense - much more physical than we've seen in a while - that was the difference.

"Once we settled into the game, we were more physical, we pushed back, we got up in them, got in their space and made it uncomfortable for them," said Paul Pierce, who had a game-high 25 points. "This is a team that wants to be left alone; they play with a lot of finesse, high-flying team, get out in transition, lobs, all that type of stuff."

Even the usually mild-mannered Greg Stiemsma showed some physical play, with him and Clippers all-star Blake Griffin having a few run-ins, one of which resulted in both players being whistled for a technical.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Monday's game saw the "mean Stiemsma."

"You have to have flashes of it," said Stiemsma, who had two points, two rebounds and two blocked shots in 22 minutes. "You can't play mad all the time, but I'm not going to back down from anybody, either. I don't care what position or situation they're in. So if I can come in and play physical, take a shot to the mouth, a couple shots to the head, if it'll help us win I'll do it."

Boston making the game into being one that was more physical than finesses certainly worked. Let's review other factors discussed earlier, and see how they actually played out as the Celtics (22-19) rally for a much-needed win over a Clippers (23-17) squad that has now lost four of their last five games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics would love to win going away tonight, but close games seem to give the Clippers problems lately which may be as clear a sign as any that they miss Chauncey Billups who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon on Feb. 6. For the season, the Clippers are 7-7 in games decided by five points or less. Since Billups' injury, the Clippers are 2-6 in such games.
WHAT WE SAW: This was yet another game that shines a bright spotlight on how much the Clippers miss Billups. Their inability to execute in the closing moments of tight games, is exactly what Billups does best. But give the Celtics credit. Defensively down the stretch, they were impressive. And if you have Pierce getting it going offensively in the fourth the way he had it tonight, the C's are an extremely tough team to beat.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Chris Paul: Even before Danny Ainge tried to swap Rondo out for Paul, there wasn't a whole lot of love between these two all-stars. Rondo has the reputation - a well earned one, mind you - for stepping his game up in big, national TV-type games. But this is one of those games where the chip Rondo usually plays with, will be even bigger than usual. Why? Because he knows that Paul is a guy that the Celtics wanted, and they had no problem giving him away to do so. Get your popcorn ready, folks. This should be a good one, for sure.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo had every reason to try and go out and prove a point, that he is better than Chris Paul. Instead of making it personal, Rondo made it a point to keep doing what he has always done a better at than Paul - winning games. C's coach Doc Rivers was not surprised at how Rondo approach the game. ""He approached it just like we thought he would," said C's coach Doc Rivers of Rondo. "He was more concerned about winning the game." When asked if there was any added fuel for tonight's game with all the Chris Paul trade rumors this summer, Rondo said, "No. I just wanted to get a win."

PLAYER TO WATCH: All of the Celtics played more minutes than usual against the Lakers, but Kevin Garnett is the one that the Celtics really need to be concerned about. You have to wonder just how much did banging with Andrew Bynum take out of KG, and whether he'll have much to offer up defensively tonight against DeAndre Jordan who doesn't have Bynum's strength, but he's no pushover, either.

WHAT WE SAW: So much for getting Garnett's minutes under control. The plan going in was to get him closer to 30 minutes played. In actuality, Garnett played about a minute less than he did on Sunday against the Lakers. Garnett had yet another strong game, scoring 21 points to go with eight rebounds in just over 34 minutes. Among his points was a 21-foot turnaround jumper with 38.4 seconds to play that essentially sealed the win.

"We went to the OG's man," said Brandon Bass, referring to the Big Four who all came up with big plays down the stretch for the Celtics. "The OG's carried us. We was on their back tonight."

STAT TO TRACK: This is one of those nights when the Celtics' best defense might be to simply foul the Clippers and send them to the free throw line. For the season, the Clippers are shooting just 69.1 percent from the free throw line which ranks 29th in the NBA. A big part of the Clippers' free throw woes is Blake Griffin, a 54.9 percent free throw shooter. He averages 7.5 free throw attempts per game which ranks sixth in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston actually committed fewer fouls (24) than the Clippers (26), but a lot of that had to do with the Clippers intentionally fouling in the game's closing seconds in hopes of getting the ball back. And the idea of putting the Clippers on the line didn't work out quite as well as Boston would have liked. The Clippers had 21 free throw attempts and connected on 18, for an 85.7 percent free throw percentage. And Blake Griffin, a horrific free throw shooter, was a respectable 6-for-8 from the line.

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday


All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
According to Smith, James will play. 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It’s hard to believe the Celtics are just hours away from their first regular-season game after having been together for less than a month. 
The quick turnaround isn't all that different than it is for the other 29 teams in the NBA.  But the Celtics, who advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season, are returning only four players -- and just one starter -- from last year.
Training camp was indeed a crash course called Getting to Know My Teammates 101.
But listening to the players, and coach Brad Stevens, it’s clear there will be lessons learned all season long.


“We have a good feel about how things can look, in the preseason,” said Al Horford. “But it is the preseason. Now it all starts. And right away we face a tough test (in the Cavaliers). But yeah, we’ll start learning even more. We’ve already learned a good amount, but even more when Tuesday rolls around.” 
That's when the Celtics kick off the regular season at Cleveland, which will once again be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.
Not too far behind (right behind them, by most accounts) are the Celts, whose season ended in the Conference finals a year ago in a five-game loss to the Cavs.
And the Boston players collectively feel that, despite the short amount of time together, they’ve developed a good sense of chemistry and understanding of how to play effectively with one another. 
Having said that, they also understand that there’s still plenty of room to grow. 
“I don’t expect it to be perfect by any means at all,” said Gordon Hayward. “We’ll definitely have some ups and downs this season. Like I said, one thing is we’ll be able to compete every night. We’ll be able to play together. Those things should stay the same.”
In many respects, the Cavaliers are going through a similar challenge this season.  They've added Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder -- and, when he recovers from his hip injury, Isaiah Thomas -- to a core group that’s led by LeBron James. 
While the increase in talent is undeniable, it’ll take some time before they too develop the kind of on-the-court cohesiveness that comes with time. 
“It’s gonna take time,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a process for everybody to learn their roles, learn everybody’s tendencies, and not think while they’re out there.”
And while there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to how things will play out with the Celtics this season, Stevens embraces the unknown. 
“I think we're going to be learning about ourselves through the middle of the season,” Stevens said. “I think you do that with every team, but I think that's especially the case now. But this is, I've said this before, like, the first week, the first 10 days, the first few weeks, we have such great and unique challenges that it's gonna be really good for this team regardless."
Stevens added: “Because, to have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc., is great. It's great to experience that in game one. A tremendous learning experience for our group. So, we're preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they're really, really good. But this is, I'm looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”

Hayward added, “It’s a fun first game to start the year. Regardless of what happens, we’ll have some improving to do and things to get better at.”