BOSTON CELTICS (40-22)
at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (37-25)
Tip-off: Monday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -5, Total: 216
The Clippers will be looking to earn a nice home victory over the struggling Celtics on Monday.
The Celtics suffered a surprising and devastating defeat Sunday afternoon, snatching defeat from the hands of victory in a 109-106 road loss to the lowly Phoenix Suns (PHX +4). After PG Isaiah Thomas hit two free throws to give Boston a two-point lead with about 10 seconds remaining, the Celtics allowed a tying layup to Phoenix PG Eric Bledsoe. Thomas mishandled the ensuing inbounds pass, and rookie PG Tyler Ulis hit a game-winning three for the Suns as time expired. At 40-22 (33-28-2 ATS), Boston is second in the Eastern Conference standings—three games back of Cleveland and two games ahead of Washington. They’ll have to dust themselves off quickly on Monday, as they’ll travel to Los Angeles for the second end of a back-to-back against the Clippers. The Clippers are coming off a nationally-televised road win, a 101-91 victory at Chicago (LAC -3). They’re 37-25 on the year (31-31 ATS), good for fifth place in the Western Conference. Over the last five seasons, favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points with a winning percentage between .510 and .600 that have gone under the total by 18 or more points in their last three games (LAC) are 70-117 ATS. In the same timeframe, March games involving a team playing its third game in four days (LAC) are 228-154 Under against totals of 200 or more. For Boston, SG Avery Bradley is probable to play and C Al Horford is questionable.
Late-game turnovers aside, Thomas (29.5 PPG, 6.2 APG) had a strong outing against the team that traded him to Boston two trade deadlines ago. He put up 35 points on 10-of-25 shooting, dished out five assists and grabbed two steals. The 5-foot-9 wonder has inserted himself into the MVP conversation with scoring bursts like that one, as he’s second in the league in scoring behind only Russell Westbrook. Bradley (17.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG) and Horford (14.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.4 BPG) are the team’s second- and third-leading scorers, respectively, despite the fact that neither is known primarily for their scoring. Both sat out on Sunday, which had the domino effect of putting PF Jonas Jerebko (4.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG) in the starting lineup and making it necessary for PG Terry Rozier (5.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG) and SG Gerald Green (5.4 PPG) to combine for 35 minutes. Last Monday was Bradley’s first game back from an injury that kept him out more than a month, and he only made it three games before needing to sit once again. Horford should only be out a little longer with an elbow ailment. With him out against the Suns, PF Amir Johnson (6.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG) stepped up with 13 points, eight boards and three blocks. Rookie SF Jaylen Brown (6.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG) started at the two for Bradley, and he has shown clear growth over the course of the season. He is averaging 13.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG over his last five games. SF Jae Crowder (13.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG) and PG Marcus Smart (10.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.7 SPG) give the team a pair of large, feisty perimeter defenders. C Kelly Olynyk (8.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG) stretches defenses.
PG Chris Paul (17.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 9.5 APG, 2.2 SPG) scared Clippers fans on Friday night against the Bucks when he appeared to reinjure the thumb that kept him out for over a month before the All-Star break. He played 33 minutes and scored 17 points the next night, though, so all appears to be well. If he had played enough games to qualify, he would be fourth in the league in assists per game. PF Blake Griffin (22.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.0 SPG) is seeing the floor a ton lately, averaging 37 minutes per game in his last six. He’s been stuffing the stat sheet, too—he was two assists and a rebound short of a triple-double on Friday, and he put up 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists against the Bulls. If he qualified (like Paul, he missed significant time earlier in the year), he would be second to only Draymond Green in assists per game among power forwards. C DeAndre Jordan (12.2 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG) does qualify among statistical leaders, and he’s third in the NBA in rebounds per game. He had a monstrous 20-point, 19-rebound outing against the Hornets last Sunday. The team gets a sizable chunk of its perimeter scoring from two shooting guards: J.J. Redick (14.8 PPG) in the starting lineup and Jamal Crawford (12.3 PPG) off the bench. Crawford had been cold recently, failing to score 10 points in four straight games, until he lit up the Bulls for 25 on Saturday. Redick is shooting 41.3% from three, a number that should go up as he gets more minutes with both Paul and Griffin. PG Austin Rivers (12.2 PPG, 2.9 APG) still has a significant role despite Paul’s return. SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (6.2 PPG, 1.1 SPG) has become a fixture in the starting lineup in recent games.