This might be Doc Rivers’ best job yet. The Los Angeles Clippers are playing in the brutal Western Conference without a single discernible star, and they are currently in line to make the playoffs. The Clip Show is sitting at 38-29 and tied with the San Antonio Spurs for 7th despite trading away leading scorer and rebounder Tobias Harris at the deadline, and that’s a pretty impressive feat. Now, Rivers and the Clippers are looking to keep the good times rolling with his old team, the Boston Celtics, in town.
Jayson Tatum is listed as a game-time decision for Boston. Tatum has had a somewhat disappointing second season after it appeared he would be one of the next great young big men in the league in last season’s playoffs, but he is still one of the top players on the team. He has been dealing with soreness in his right shoulder since the Celtics’ win over the Lakers on Friday.
Luc Mbah a Moute might finally be set to return against the Celtics. He is finally back in practice after missing nearly five months with a knee injury, and he could come off the bench tonight. That would give the Clippers a nice boost.
There has been some movement on Boston and the over tonight. The Celtics opened as a one-point road favorite per the NBA betting odds, but that number has slowly moved upwards throughout the morning. Boston is now a two-point favorite at -115 odds, and this line could move to 3 soon. The total came out at 225 and has since moved up a point to 226.
What’s at Stake?
This has been a great road trip for Boston. The Celtics were hoping to split when they started their four-game West Coast road swing last week, but right now they are 3-0 and looking to sweep. Boston has been able to upend Golden State, Sacramento, and the Lakers over the last week, and that has helped them move up the Eastern Conference standings too. They are gaining ground on both Philadelphia and Indiana in their bid to host a first round playoff series.
As for the Clippers, they are tied with San Antonio and looking to move out of the No. 8 seed. The Clippers know the No. 8 seed is likely to draw Golden State in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, and that is a fate they are looking to avoid.
When these teams met in Boston last month, the Celtics blew a huge lead. It looked like the Celtics would have no problem picking up a win after outscoring the Clips 43-20 in the first quarter, but the wheels came off after that. The Clippers outscored them 70-38 in the second half in one of the biggest comeback wins of the season. This game led to Boston fans booing the team, and the players aren’t likely to have forgotten that.
Coming into tonight’s game, Boston has had one day of rest after playing the Lakers on Saturday, while the Clippers have had two days off after playing on Friday.
Patrick Beverley is one of those players that can get under certain people’s skin. Beverley is a hard-nosed player that sometimes skirts the letter of the law with his defense, and he isn’t afraid to talk either. He let Boston know what was up in the first meeting between these two teams after nailing two three-pointers to ice the game late, and Boston remembers that.
Kyrie Irving only played 14 minutes the first time these teams met, and he will play more of a factor in the return game. Irving is one of the more mercurial talents in the NBA, but there is no doubt he can take his game to an elite level at times. He is Boston’s leading scorer this season, and he will look to have a big day against the Clippers.
While the Celtics are playing better basketball, I like the Clippers as a home underdog here. Rivers has gotten a lot out of this hard-scrabble team, and the extra day off will have them sharp in a couple different ways.