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

Celtics-Clippers review: Boston derailed trying to get season on track
December 28, 2012, 7:57 am
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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.