L.A. Clippers at Boston Celtics
February 3, 2013
10:00 a.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket/NBATV
It’s Clippers-Celtics, a battle of two of the best point guards in the game. Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo. Wait…Paul and Rondo both won’t play in this game? It’s Eric Bledsoe vs. Avery Bradley?? Oh well, that’s still fun, right? Now onto 3-on-3:
1. How much does Rajon Rondo’s absence hurt Boston?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): It hurts them immensely, potentially crippling their playoff chances and causing a blow up of the roster. I know the numbers say he has a menial impact, if any, but Rondo is arguably Boston’s best player, and their only true point guard, so I expect their already anemic offense to take a major hit.
Michael Pina, CelticsHub, (@MichaelVPina): Rajon Rondo is one of the best point guards in basketball, and when he’s on, his total impact on a game is almost unparalleled. That being said, removing him from Boston’s starting lineup might not hurt as much as it should. For one, the Celtics’ great strength remains the defense, which could get even better as Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee see their minutes increase. And on the other end, Jason Terry will assume a larger play-making role with the ball in his hands; despite early season struggles, he’s still a pretty good player, and putting him in more pick-and-roll situations should get him comfortable.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Somewhere between a lot and a heck of a lot. Boston’s offense has been pretty awful all season (the Celtics rank 27th in the NBA in offensive efficiency) and it consistently stalls in the half court. Take away the team’s best playmaker and scoring will be even harder to come by.
2. With no Rondo and presumably no Paul, who is the key player in this game?
Buha: Paul Pierce. You could argue Kevin Garnett or Blake Griffin, but I think Pierce’s play will dictate much of the Celtics’ success, now and in the future. Boston needs The Truth to step into a time machine and give them his mid-to-late-00s offensive production. If he gets hot and can score 30-plus points, this will be a close game.
Pina: From Boston, it’s the same guy for the rest of the season: Jeff Green. When he gives 25-30 minutes of brilliant perimeter defense, smooth transition baskets and dunks powerful enough to scare opposing big men, everyone else on the team gets a lift. For the Clippers I’d have to imagine it’s Blake Griffin. Whenever he’s matched up with Brandon Bass, Griffin needs to dominate, and if he can control the boards like he should, Boston will have a very difficult time dictating the pace as they see fit.
Katz: The Raptors’ wings took over Friday night’s game. With no Rondo, Pierce’s old-man game is going to have to pick up much of the slack and he might be able to do that if the Clips defend the same way they did Friday night.
3. Do the Clips bounce back from their no-show in Toronto on Friday night?
Buha: Yes, they have but no choice if they want to seriously contend for a top-two seed. I don’t pay much attention to wins in the standings — just losses. The Clippers are three back of OKC and San Antonio in the loss column, and they need to start making up that ground now. Otherwise, a much more difficult opponent (Denver, Golden State, Memphis) will await them as the three-seed.
Pina: They can’t play much worse, so they have to, right? The Celtics will be up for their first true test sans Rondo and Jared Sullinger, but their usual advantage on the bench should be nullified by the Clippers reserves, still the best backup group in the league. Los Angeles’ height will also be a major problem for Boston’s weak front line.
Katz: Yes. The Celtics are a lesser team not at full force and the Clippers have to take advantage of that. Boston competes. It might be close. But I think the Clips pull it out in the end.