Celtics-Clippers Preview: Turning the Corner

Celtics-Clippers Preview: Turning the Corner
December 27, 2012, 3:47 pm
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LOS ANGELES Although the Boston Celtics have been an uneven bunch this year in terms of how they perform, they tend to save their best work for the best teams.
And the Los Angeles Clipppers - not the Lakers, not Oklahoma City, not even the defending NBA champion Miami Heat - are the best team in the league right now.
They have the best record (22-6), the best winning streak of the season (14 straight, and counting) in addition to one of the league's best players (Chris Paul) who has shown great leadership in elevating the play of an entire team and franchise from being an NBA afterthought for years into what is now a legit NBA title contender.
"They're playing some really good basketball right now," said C's guard Courtney Lee. "We'll definitely have our hands full with them; with all the teams we face on this West coast trip, really."
While games down the road against Golden State and Sacramento will challenge the C's in many ways, the Clippers are a near and present danger that will require the Celtics to play one of their best games of the season in order to win.
Boston is among the many teams in the NBA this season that has talked about turning the corner, about evolving into the team that they envision themselves of being.
A victory in tonight's game would be a huge step forward in achieving that goal.
"Some team has to do what they say and take off," Rivers said. "I'm hoping it's us."
Here are some of the keys to tonight's game as the Celtics try to cool off the Clippers, the hottest team in the NBA.
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.
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.
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.
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.