The Boston Celtics
are shaking off injuries and a bench overhaul as they host the Los Angeles Clippers
on Wednesday night.
The Celtics (46-15 straight-up, 29-30-2 against the spread) have won five straight games, although going just 2-3 ATS.
This franchise was turned upside down at the Feb. 24 trading deadline when bold GM Danny Ainge sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Perkins was very popular in the locker room and the team came out flat in Denver right after the trade was announced, losing 89-75 as 4 ½-point favorites.
Losing Perkins is still a sore spot for some players, but veterans like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen know this could be their last title shot and don’t want to blow the chance. Boston currently holds the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games ahead of the charging Bulls.
The newcomers are playing a big role. Krstic is the starting center with Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal both sidelined with injuries. Green is proving to be a valuable sixth man and he’s settled in the last two games (16 PPG) after struggling in the first three (six PPG).
Big man Troy Murphy and swingman Sasha Pavlovic are two recent free agent bench signings (part of Ainge’s master plan). Murphy has no field goals in three games, but needs to play with Glen Davis (foot) out. Former Miami point Carlos Arroyo was also just signed, and he could back up Rajon Rondo on Wednesday with Delonte West (ankle) not definite to play.
Boston’s winning streak actually started at the Clippers on Feb. 26, two nights after the Denver debacle. The Celtics won 99-92, just failing to ‘cover’ the eight-point spread. Randy Foye had 32 points in defeat subbing in for Eric Gordon. First year phenom Blake Griffin had his customary 21 points and 11 boards.
The Celtics haven’t played since Sunday (89-83 win at Milwaukee as 7 ½-point favorites). That game went ‘under’ the 181-point total. The ‘over’ was 4-0 in Boston’s previous four games.
Boston is 7-4 ATS on two days rest this season (like Wednesday) and the increased practice time is vital for the new guys.
The Clippers (24-40 SU, 31-32-1 ATS) are 3-0 SU and ATS in March after a dismal February (2-12 SU, 4-10 ATS). The winning streak started with home games against Houston (106-103) and Denver (100-94). Boston is the second game of a five-game road trip.
L.A.’s last contest was Monday night, a 92-87 win as one-point ‘chalk’ at decimated Charlotte. Griffin had 17 points and 15 rebounds as the Clippers broke a four-game SU and ATS road losing streak. They’re 6-25 SU and 12-18-1 ATS away this year.
The 179 combined points scored against Charlotte went ‘under’ the 188 ½-point total. The ‘under’ is 4-0 in L.A.’s last four games and 7-1 in its last eight road games.
Los Angeles’ starting backcourt on Wednesday will be Mo Williams and Randy Foye. Foye is starting due to Gordon’s (23.7 PPG) wrist injury. Gordon missed all of February, but came back for the Houston and Denver games before getting reinjured.
Williams is at the point after being acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline for Baron Davis. He’s scoring 16.8 PPG the last four games.
The question for the Clippers is whether they can score enough with Gordon out, especially on the road. Griffin (22.7 PPG) is consistent, but Foye is very streaky. The bench has a couple of helpers with center Chris Kaman and rookie guard Eric Bledsoe.
The Clippers are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings in Boston. The ‘under’ is 7-1 in the last eight in Beantown.
Tip-off will be 4:30 p.m. (PT) from TD Banknorth Garden. Both teams will be off until Friday. The Clippers are at New Jersey, while Boston visits Philly.