LOS ANGELES – A few weeks ago, the idea that Lou Williams would be on the trade market didn’t seem all that far-fetched.
The Los Angeles Clippers weren’t winning and at the time, looked like a team in need of some serious re-tooling.
Then came a 50-point explosion by Williams and as the wins start to pile up, the Clippers (23-23) now find themselves just a half-game out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
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And Williams, who leads all reserves in scoring this season with a career-high 23.3 points per game, has been a major player in the team’s resurgence which has seen them win six of their last eight games.
So for Celtics fans, tonight’s game will be about as close as you’ll get to seeing Williams.
But that won’t stop the rumors, even when all indications at this point indicate that the Clippers aren’t interested in trading away their top scorer.
Still, the Williams rumors underscore what’s becoming a more glaring need for the Celtics -- additional scoring.
They have managed to get by this season with an offense that has been re-tooled on the fly courtesy of Gordon Hayward’s ankle injury.
But what we’re seeing now is the gradual effect of not having Hayward, a versatile wing player who was named an all-star a year ago this time when he played in Utah.
Seeing him walking around in Los Angeles which will be is new training ground for another week or so, is good for him as well as his teammates.
And yes, it ratchets up the talk of a potential return to action this season even as Brad Stevens tries to temper expectations in reminding folks that Hayward still has a long way to go in his recovery process.
No question if he’s able to come back prior to the playoffs, it’ll give the Celtics exactly what they need – a difference-making scorer with experience.
But the Celtics know they can’t bank on him being ready to go by then, no matter how hard he pushes his body to get back on the floor as quickly as possible.
And so Boston will continue to walk that awkward walk of planning for a Hayward-less postseason and pursue potential trades for players like Memphis’ Tyreke Evans to help short-term, while embracing the possibility no matter how remote it may be, that the team they envisioned at the start of training camp may in fact be whole by the time the playoffs arrive.
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers.
MR. (NOT SO) IRRELEVANT
Isaiah Thomas is the gold standard for players taken with the 60th and final pick of the draft. But Tyrone Wallace is on the right path to making a name for himself. Selected by Utah with the 60th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Wallace is currently on a two-way contract with the Clippers’ G-League affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers. But more important, the 6-foot-5 guard/forward from Cal is a starter for the Clippers. He’s averaging 11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range. Wallace is the only player in the common draft era (1966-present) to score at least 10 points in their first three NBA games.
HISTORICAL NIGHT FOR JORDAN
For DeAndre Jordan, tonight will be the 715th game he has played as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers which will tie a franchise record, joining Randy Smith at the top of the franchise’s list of all-time leaders in games played. However, what makes Jordan’s inclusion more impressive is that he has done it in just one stint with the Clippers with this being Jordan’s 10th season with the franchise. Smith had two different stints (1971-1979; 1982-1983) with the Clippers.
FOURTH QUARTER SCORERS
Tonight’s game will feature two of the NBA’s best at scoring in the fourth quarter. The Clippers’ Lou Williams averages 23.3 points per game, with 7.5 coming in the fourth quarter that trails only LeBron James in fourth-quarter scoring (8.1) per game this season. Meanwhile, the Celtics counter with Kyrie Irving whose 6.4 points in the fourth is tied for eighth in the NBA.
In the closing seconds of Tuesday night’s loss, Al Horford took a blow to the face that clearly shook him up briefly. He did not return. “He got hit in the face and I didn’t want to risk it,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game. Horford had no issue with Stevens’ decision. “I got hit and coach probably did the right thing, just making sure I was fine and kept me out for the end of the game,” Horford said. It is unclear if the Celtics will undergo concussion testing for Horford who has missed games in each of his two seasons in Boston, due to concussion-like symptoms.
The Celtics have made a more concerted effort to try and generate more offense on mid-range shots this season. According to NBA.com/stats, the Celtics average 15.2 mid-range shots per game which ranks 17th in the NBA. That’s an increase over last season when they averaged 14.2 mid-range shots per game which ranked 28th in the league. While the Clippers are eighth in the NBA in scoring at 107.8 points per game, they don’t look to get buckets from the mid-range after that often. For the season, the Clippers are averaging 11.6 mid-range shots per game which ranks 27th in the league.