Clippers wrap up season's first half vs Boston
The L.A. Clippers have been one of the most resilient teams in the league this year. In games following a loss, the Clippers are 15-1 — the only consecutive losses coming to the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans in mid-November.
It's not just that the Clippers are winning those games after losses, either. L.A. tends to dominate those opponents, with an average margin of victory of 18.1 points. There are some good teams in that bunch as well, including the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.
L.A.'s uncanny ability to avoid imploding is something that's done the team well, as the Clippers are currently 37-17 and the Western Conference's third seed with one game left to play before the All-Star break.
That said, tonight's game against the Boston Celtics will arguably be the Clippers' toughest after a loss so far this season, given the circumstances. The Celtics are favored by 1.5, according to ESPN.
Boston is a dangerously tough team at home. Not quite as good as the Philadelphia 76ers, who have the best home record in the NBA at 25-2, but the Celtics aren't far behind at 22-5. The only losses the team has suffered at home have come against the Sixers, Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns.
Of course, the Clippers are as good — if not better — than all of the teams included in that list. On top of that, L.A. has already beaten Boston once this season, 107-104. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 42 points in that one, while Lou Williams led the Clippers in scoring with 27.
Patrick Beverley had one of his best games of the season against the Celtics as well, going for 14 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists in nearly 41 minutes of action. Unfortunately, the Clippers will be without his services for the fourth-straight game Thursday night while he recovers from a groin injury.
Before losing to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, Boston had been playing some of its best basketball of the season. The Celtics are winners of 10 of their last 12 games, with wins over the Lakers, Heat, 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
It's difficult to pick out just one player that's been responsible for carrying the team during this stretch. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker have all played very well, but have each missed a few games as well.
If the Clippers hope to secure a league-best 16th win following a loss, they'll need to be extremely sharp on both ends of the floor. Boston is allowing the second-fewest points per game this season and has the fifth-highest offensive rating in the league.
Leonard will need to have a big game, but he's been the Clippers' most consistent player this year — and especially lately. The two-way star has scored at least 30 points in 10 of his last 13 games and even notched his first career triple-double in a win over the Heat last month.
It's George and Williams that will need to step up. PG has shot 42.6 percent from the floor since returning from a nine-game absence but managed to go just 3-of-15 against Philadelphia on Tuesday night, and Williams has made 34.7 percent of his looks since January 16.
As two of L.A.'s top scorers, their efforts will be crucial against a dangerous Boston team.
A win over the Celtics would send the Clippers home with a 2-2 record for the road trip and into the All-Star break on a high note. A loss, though, would leave us with even more questions than we have now.