By: Adam Nazzaro
The Boston Celtics will seek to match their season-high win streak Monday night as the green head into the Staples Center to take on the surging Los Angeles Clippers. The Celtics (43-30) are currently 4th in the Eastern Conference, and look to close in on Atlanta for the 3rd spot with just 9 games to play. On the other hand, the Clippers (45-27) have just clinched a playoff spot with a 105-90 win over Denver Sunday night, and sit comfortably in 4th place in the Western Conference with a 4.5 game lead over Memphis.
As this game is crucial for both teams in solidifying home court for at least the first round of the playoffs, Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers insisted that “It does matter when you consistently just assume that you’re going the playoffs, but we want to do more then that, obviously.” As Rivers plans for a deep playoff run, he appreciates the team’s recognition of what the ultimate goal is by saying “That’s why no one knew we clinched, which is good. It’s a good sign when you don’t know anymore, maybe that’s the sign we are looking for.”
The Celtics are coming off their fourth consecutive victory, by squeezing out a 102-99 victory in Phoenix Saturday night. Star guard Isaiah Thomas continues his fantastic month of March with 28 points Saturday night to open up this 5-game road trip. The 5th year veteran out of the University of Washington, is now averaging 26.3 pts/g in the month of March and has been recognized as one of the best offensive guards in the NBA. In the postgame Saturday night, Thomas said “I’m just glad we got the win. This time of year, no matter how you get wins, it’s just about staying on top and we did that”.
In their last matchup, the Celts edged the Clippers in an offensive showcase 139-134 overtime win on Feb. 10 at TD Garden. Thomas had 36 points, which was 2 points shy of his career high and is averaging 26.7 pts/g while shooting 50 % in their last three meetings. For the Clippers all-star guard Chris Paul had a phenomenal game (35 pts 13 ast), as did center Deandre Jordan (21 pts, 16 reb). Jordan, who also had himself a night on Sunday (16 pts,16 rebs) has been key for the Clippers down the stretch with the absence of forward Blake Griffin. “He’s our energy guy, the captain of our defense” said former Celtics star Paul Pierce, now in a Clippers uniform says “He gets rebounds obviously, but we have been going to him a little bit more on the post on offense. He’s starting to fulfill a lot of his potential. He is still young and has a lot of room to grow. He’s showing that he can keep getting better and better.”
For the 17 year NBA veteran who is now 38 years old, Pierce who has talked about retiring at the end of this season could be his last game against the team and place where he called home for 15 seasons. As the Inglewood, CA native plays back in his hometown Pierce said “I don’t have much basketball left, whether it will be this year or next year, to come home and play in front of family and friends and possibly win a championship, it’s a dream come true.” Pierce told NESN.
If it is his final season for the 10-time all-star, it has been a privilege to watch number 34 play and without a doubt you’ll see that number retired in the TD Garden rafters in years to come.
Celtics Forward Jae Crowder who has now missed 7 straight games with a high ankle sprain, will miss tonight’s game as he’s listed day-to-day you could see him come back by this weekend. Clippers Forward Blake Griffin, who hasn’t played since Christmas Day has fully recovered from his hand injury after an altercation with assistant equipment manager Matias Testi. Griffin who was also nursing a quad injury, was suspended for the altercation and will continue to serve his 4 game suspension tonight and is scheduled to make his return April 3rd against Washington. I expect another highly offensive scoring match up, as these two playoff teams look to continue their momentum heading into postseason play.