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.

Tyronn Lue says Celtics harder to defend than Warriors: 'They're running all kinds of s---'

Tyronn Lue says Celtics harder to defend than Warriors: 'They're running all kinds of s---'

The Golden State Warriors are the least of Tyronn Lue's worries, Cleveland Cavaliers coach explained Tuesday.

Even though Lue and the Cavs are up 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, he is apparently overwhelmed with the Boston Celtics to the point where he isn't even thinking about Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the 67-win Warriors.

"We're just focused on Boston," Lue said of the Warriors following the Cavs' Game 4 win, via ESPN.com. "The stuff they're running, it's harder to defend than Golden State's [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it's a totally different thing."

No, seriously.

"Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s---," Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens' schemes. "I'll be like, 'F---.' They're running all kinds of s---, man. And Brad's got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It's tough, you know, it's tough."

Without Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics finished Game 4 with four players who had 15 points or more. They also had six players who scored double digits in Boston's Game 3 win. Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder and Al Horford have made heavy offensive contributions. And they not just scoring. The Celtics are working hard off the ball by setting screens and cutting to the hoop to pressure the Cavaliers defense.

The Celtics may not have the Warriors' star power -- but Stevens and Boston are still managing to leave Lue in a state of clear befuddlement after a win.

LeBron James praised Stevens more directly when discussing how the Celtics "run different things" after losing Thomas to injury.

"So they had to kind of reshape, and that’s the beauty of having Brad Stevens as your coach," James told reporters. "You’re able to reshape what you do offensively and still be in a good rhythm. It’s been challenging for us to kind of — plays out of time-out, kind of been killing us on ATOs and keeping us off balance, but in the second half we kind of got a little bit of rhythm, and think we’ll be better in Game 5."