Thursday concluded the regular season series between the LA Clippers and the Eastern Conference Champions Boston Celtics. After the Clippers beat the Celtics 113-93 in Los Angeles, the Celtics got revenge with a 116-110 win in Boston.
This matchup has heightened intrigue over the years for a variety of reasons, from the team’s deep-seated ties to the similarity in roster composition. A third match-up in the NBA Finals could take place five months from now.
athleticClippers Beat Writer Law Murray and Celtics Beat Writer Jared Weiss discuss what they’ve seen together from these two teams and what’s next.
Malay: The Celtics’ LA visit 17 days ago was a big moment for the Clippers. It was the first time Kawhi Leonard and Paul George played a home game together since the Clippers hosted the Spurs on Nov. 19, 23 days ago. That Spurs game was so good offensively that Clippers head coach Tyrone Lue called it a “blueprint” for how the team should play.
As Celtics acting head coach Damon Stoudamire pointed out before the game in Boston on Thursday, the Clippers were the only team to outperform the Celtics in each quarter all season. , where he scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting, surpassing 20 points for the first time this season. He’s even done it twice since he led the rematch in Boston.
The George/Leonard matchup against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be the most interesting part of these two teams playing against each other and will headline the Finals. do you think?
Weiss: The Clippers duo has long been on the roadmap for the Jays, especially with so many similarities between them all.tatum said athletic A few years ago, Leonard and George were two contemporaries he studied to make the leap as a downhill scorer and playmaker. It incorporated much of George’s style and rhythm, using long strides and wide, jerky crossovers.
But over the last two seasons, his moves have become more powerful and subtle. Leonard’s X-ray vision in the league might be the closest thing to his game. Leonard will get to his location and shoot it no matter what. Defenders are sometimes inches from his eyes, and he doesn’t even feel it.
Tatum almost always gets to his place and shoots like no one is there. He no longer tries to find his open shot wide, going through everyone in front of him and shooting at his own timing. He found that he could do whatever he wanted if the defenders didn’t care what they said. That’s the most important thing in Leonard’s game. He’s really a special blend of Leonard’s and George’s playstyles, but Brown’s obvious, in the way he hangs on a mid-ranger like Leonard or transitions from a low, fast dribbling spurt to a spin move like George’s. have elements of their game.
The Boston duo are well on their way to catching up to them in playmaking, but their scoring ability seems to be on par, if not outmatched. If the Clippers duo still holds the edge, it’s really on the mental side. Stoudemire perfectly explained before Thursday’s game, how the Clippers have a distinct identity starting at the top.
“I liken the Clippers to the 90s team. They’re really methodical and they’re not trying to trick you across the floor. If a player scores, they’re going to attack you.” “It’s a double team,” Stoudamire said. That’s what happens when[Brown and Tatum]tend to struggle, but if our spacing is right, they always seem to play right. increase.”
Malay: It’s interesting that you mentioned Tatum mirroring George’s style because George started those two games defending Tatum. There was a sequence of exchanging . However, Tatum managed to remain consistent throughout the quarter. Leonard and Brown each scored 15 points in the first half in Boston, but Tatum outscored George 20-9 with the same halftime margin.
Weiss: Brown and Tatum were great within the arc, but terrible from deep inside. There was one play when he hit a layup and Al Horford immediately inbounded it to Brown. But he was determined to score.
The Celtics weren’t in full health much this month as bugs swept the locker room, and I wonder what this game would have looked like if Malcolm Brogdon was there. , did it widen the margin? Did it discourage Boston from running?
Malay: We saw Peyton Pritchard in the first-half rotation, but things didn’t go well for those few minutes and Pritchard didn’t show up after half-time. That’s obviously not what happens in Brogdon, the Clippers are actually healthier than they were when the Celtics were in Los Angeles, Norman Powell is getting healthier, and the Celtics have center Horford and Robert his Williams III was absent, but is now available. Jared, how will these two of him change this matchup?
Weiss: The most obvious difference was that they blitzed Tatum and Brown more aggressively, doing so more often during games and putting all-out pressure on crunch time to provoke a comeback. Stoudamire said they were his ’90s team. What is he doing in the ’90s more than pressing on a full court like a junior high school student?
The intention behind the blitz seems to have been to prevent the Jays from downhilling and lobbing to the center in the dunker spot. Because they know Williams can torch them at vertical intervals when Batum or Marcus Morris Sr. are present. Five. But I also saw a lot of blitzes with Ivica Zubak, so it was a desire to keep Tatum and Brown off the ball as much as possible at halfcourt.
Joe Mazura has always hinted that Robert Williams has no minutes, but Stoudamire said Thursday that “he was medically given the minutes he should have played.” There is a whole semantic debate as to whether it technically constitutes a fractional limit if you go with the flow, but it seems unlikely that he will play his 35 games a night in the near future ( or ever) is clear.
Williams’ answer summed it up perfectly.
“Shhh, they just look at me and ask if I’m okay. I’m not trying to come out,” Williams said Thursday night.
That’s a big part of why Williams is still off the bench, with Mazura leaving his place in the air rotation. No answer, but Lou has plenty of practice with these sorts of difficult lineup choices. How has he handled the deepest roster in the league so far?
Malay: This is a work in progress for Lue, and the fourth quarter in Boston was a stark example. Batum is a switchable defender with smarts and length. He plays in every game, making him the most reliable player on the team in terms of availability. However, Batum twisted his ankle in the first quarter and his protection to the rim was non-existent in the second half.
Powell is the sixth nan and probably has the most assured role. He scores with his head down no matter who is on the floor. But when Powell is on the floor without Zubak or Batum, even with his four other starters, the internal defense is vulnerable. Boston scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, the best opponents of the season against the Celtics and Clippers this season. Brown had half of them.
So Lou can make better use of his resources, especially against a team like Boston. Luke Kennard played at 17:23 without attempting a shot, and the Celtics started targeting him late. Terance Mann didn’t play at all after halftime. He’s the type of player who, like Kennard, doesn’t target. Especially if Kennard isn’t putting up a shot. John Wall played under control, but was guarded in the closing stages by Robert Williams. Saw Luke Cornette defending him in LA
The Clippers have the means to adjust, and that helps set them up for the playoffs. But far from that, his unit on the bench must also really make sense.
Weiss: There have been many questions about whether Williams should step off the bench, but he stresses that he is happy as long as the team is happy.
“If it happens, it will happen. But we’re the winners here. We pride ourselves on putting the team first,” Williams said. “I can still make an impact off the bench. I like that I can see where I need to add energy from the bench. .
It’s an important position for a player above the role player, especially since the team was clicking when he was with the starters. Boston has always had three starting caliber players who have to watch crunch time from the bench, so that second tier player really does his part. We’ve carefully curated that roster to make sure you’re sacrificing.
That’s why Boston’s rut, which fell for the first time against the Clippers, reversed course. Overall defensive intensity has dropped but is back, allowing the team to create easier buckets in transition throughout the night. They didn’t rely solely on their talent either. The offensive cohesiveness seems to be returning and the defense has held up well for some time now.
Malay: If these teams go head-to-head, it will definitely be the highlight of the apex swing play. , the Celtics have such a tough game to deal with. But both he and George need to perform better against the Blitz defense. Boston forced a lot of turnovers this season. Not yet, George (4) and Leonard (3) made 7 of the Clippers’ 13 turnovers in Boston. George, in particular, is prone to momentum-reversing turnovers. If George has fewer turnovers and more goal attempts on the field, the Clippers are the better team.
It’s great to see these two teams delivering memorable regular season games. That was the case in all four seasons George and Leonard were with the Clippers, but the Clippers star didn’t appear in a Celtics game last season, and Boston had four head coaches in the series. All four of Leonard, George, Tatum and Brown will do their best in their NBA Finals matchups.
(Top photo: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)