Celtics-Clippers preview: Rolling with adversity

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Celtics-Clippers preview: Rolling with adversity

BOSTON Adversity seems to be the "in" thing these days around the NBA because it looks like nobody can quite have enough of it.

The Celtics are no exception.

Just days after learning that Rajon Rondo (torn right ACL) was out for the season, he was soon joined by teammate Jared Sullinger whose lumbar disc surgery puts him on the bench for the rest of the 2012-2013 season as well.

And as tough as times might seem for the C's now, they face a Clippers team that's going to play with a similar sense of purpose because they too have been playing without their All-Star point guard, Chris Paul.

He suffered a bruised knee injury on Jan. 12 and has appeared in two games since. Team officials are listing him as a game-time decision for this afternoon's tilt in Boston.

The same holds true for Jamal Crawford who suffered a broken nose in the fourth quarter of the Clippers' loss at Toronto on Friday.

But with injuries comes opportunity for someone to step up and fill the void.

We have seen the best of Courtney Lee who has been a double digit scorer when Rondo doesn't play.

"Hes doing great," Rivers said of Lee. "Im asking a lot of him. He started the (Orlando) game bringing the ball up at point, then hes guarding J.J. Redick, and then at one point he was at the three."

Said Lee: "The production is coming from everybody, as opposed to you know, Rondo. He's our playmaker, he's racked up a lot of assists with his playmaking ability. Now we have to move the ball and make sure we are in the right spots to execute the offense.

For the Clippers, Eric Bledsoe continues to make a strong case for being the best backup point guard in the NBA this season. Naturally minutes behind a healthy Chris Paul will be limited, but that hasn't stopped Bledsoe from averaging nine points while racking up a whopping 78 steals this season which is tops among all players with fewer than 21 minutes played per game this season.

Playing without key guys will indeed be one of the many challenges facing both teams today.

Here are some other keys to today's game as the C's look to avenge a 106-77 blowout loss in Los Angeles on Dec. 27.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Scoring is going to be a challenge for both teams when you consider they are each among the top-10 scoring defenses in the NBA. The C's will look to get out in transition and score a few easy buckets, but the Clippers' size, depth and athleticism will make those times few and far between.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs DeAndre Jordan. Garnett's length often gives him an edge. But that won't be the case against Jordan. KG's effectiveness will come down to his footwork to create enough space to shoot, and his court vision in finding teammates or as he has done often, making the "hockey assist" in which his pass leads to the pass that becomes an assist.

PLAYER TO WATCH: With 118 dunks to his credit this season, it's hard to take your eyes off of Blake Griffin when he's on the floor or even in the air. You can count on him to have a couple jams at some point today.

STAT TO TRACK: Paul Pierce comes into today's game with three straight games of at least 10 rebounds. A double-digit rebounding game today would be just the second time in Pierce's career that he has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in four straight games. The first time was Nov. 16-23, 2002.

Bradley steps up to lead Celtics to 117-87 blowout win over Magic

Bradley steps up to lead Celtics to 117-87 blowout win over Magic

It was one of Tacoma, Washington’s finest carrying the scoring load most of Wednesday night for the Boston Celtics. 
 
But it wasn’t the Celtics’ leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
 
It was his backcourt mate and fellow Tacoma, Wash. native Avery Bradley picking up the slack in Thomas’ absence as Boston pulled away in the second half for a 117-87 blowout win over the Orlando Magic. 
 
Wednesday’s victory was Boston’s first in Orlando since Nov. 8, 2013. 
 
Bradley led seven double-figure scorers for Boston (13-9), with a team-high 23 points.
 
Thomas missed his first game of the season with a right groin injury that will sideline him for a yet-to-be-determined period of time. 
 
The 5-foot-9 guard ranks among the NBA’s leaders in scoring (26.0) in addition to leading the Celtics in assists (6.2) per game. 
 
But Bradley was up to the challenge of filling the void left by Thomas, which isn’t all that surprising when you consider the game was away from the TD Garden. 
 
Bradley has been good this year, but has really stood out in road games where he has averaged 19.0 points on 51.4 percent shooting from the field compared to 15.8 points on 41.3 percent shooting at the TD Garden. 
 
The first half was a tightly contested game with neither team leading by more than eight points. 
 
After Orlando scored the first basket of the third quarter, the Celtics went on a furious 18-2 run to lead 67-54 which had five different scorers for Boston that spoke volumes about the balanced offensive attack the Celtics came with to make up for Thomas’ absence. 
 
Boston’s defense picked up its intensity in the second half, but just as important was the renewed emphasis on ball movement that was simple, crisp and highly effective. 
 
And it came against an Orlando team that came in having won four of its last five games – all on the road – which included beating the always-challenging San Antonio Spurs on their home floor. 
 
But as important as it was for Bradley to help fill the enormous scoring void that exists without Thomas, Boston also needed a strong game from their bench. 
 
That’s exactly what they got, and it wasn’t just one or two guys, either. 
 
Jaylen Brown had arguably the best game of his still-young NBA career coming off the Celtics bench, finishing with 13 points which included a powerful, rim-rattling dunk over Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic
 
Boston also got great play out of Terry Rozier (career-high 16 points, five rebounds) who saw a few more minutes than usual because of Thomas’ injury. 
 
Not only was the victory important to pad the win total, but it also provides a nice boost of confidence for the Celtics as they hit what will be arguably the most difficult stretch of the season in terms of quality opponents. 
 
The Celtics have 12 games remaining this month, with the teams having a combined record of 152-105, or a winning percentage of .591.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics-Magic close at the half

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics-Magic close at the half

Playing without Isaiah Thomas for the first time this season, the Boston Celtics managed to keep the game relatively close with Orlando and went into the half trailing 50-49.
 
Orlando led for the entire first quarter, only for the Celtics to go ahead 28-27 behind a dunk by Jaylen Brown just 47 seconds into the second quarter. 
 
Neither team led by more than five points for the rest of the half. 
 
The Celtics were playing without Thomas (right groin) who leads the team in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season. 
 
Replacing him in the starting lineup was Marcus Smart who has five previous starts this season, but each came at the small forward position while Wednesday’s start came at the point.
 
One of the big concerns the Celtics had coming in was how they would hold their own against the Magic’s beefy, physical frontline that includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 
 
At the half, the Celtics were in a 19-all tie on the boards and actually had a 10-7 advantage in second-chance points.
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game.
 
 
STARS

 
D.J. Augustin

The Magic point guard got hot at the end of the second quarter, finishing the half with a pair of 3’s that were part of a 15-point first half.
 
Avery Bradley

With no Thomas, there was need for Bradley to step up and deliver more offensively. He led the Celtics with 12 first-half points on 4-for-8 shooting.
 

STUDS
 
Evan Fournier

His shot-making at the start of the game was a big key for the Magic, finishing with 10 first-half points (all in the first quarter) to go with four assists.
 
Marcus Smart

He’s not going to score like Isaiah Thomas, but Smart can knock down open looks when they come his way. He had nine points in first half on 3-for-4 shooting.
 

DUDS

Boston 3-point shooting

The Celtics were brutal from 3-point range in the first half, missing 13 of their 14 3-point attempts. Making matter worst, Orlando was a near-perfect 8-for-10 from 3-point range.