Blakely's Celtics-Clippers preview

Blakely's Celtics-Clippers preview
March 12, 2012, 8:15 pm
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LOS ANGELES When you prepare to play the Los Angeles Clippers, there are a number of things you need to be on guard for.

Near the top of that list? The alley-oop pass.

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan will get his share, but the bulk of the Clippers' above-the-rim play comes from all-star forward Blake Griffin.

Only in his second NBA season, Griffin has already thrown down 328 dunks.

The only player in that span with more than 250 dunks, is Orlando's Dwight Howard who leads all NBA players in dunks since the start of last season, with 337.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers isn't too worried about the Clippers' penchant for throwing the lob pass.

"Well listen, as far as I know, a lob is only two points," Rivers said. "So if they get lobs and Ray gets threes, I'll take the trade."

Defending the lob pass -- something they actually did a decent job of against Los Angeles' other team, the Lakers -- will be part of the Celtics' game plan to knock off a much-improved Clippers team tonight.

Here are a few more items that should come into play tonight with the Celtics looking to get back on a winning track following a three-point loss on Sunday to the Lakers.

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.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Rajon Rondo vs. Chris Paul: Even before Danny Ainge tried to swap Rondo out for Paul, these two All-stars were anything but BFFs. 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.

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.

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.