Back to where their run of strong play began, the Los Angeles Clippers will get reacquainted with their home floor again when they play host to the Boston Celtics on Friday.
The Clippers won six consecutive home games through the middle of January then tested their new-found good fortune with a solid 4-2 road trip against Eastern Conference opponents that ended Wednesday.
The Celtics will enter the middle game of their five-game trip out west hoping they can look back as fondly on their travels as the Clippers did. They are 1-1 in two games in California so far.
Friday’s Clippers-Celtics game will be the first since 2004 without Doc Rivers as the head coach of either team. Rivers was with the Celtics from 2004-05 until 2012-13. He immediately joined the Clippers and stayed until the end of last season.
The Clippers’ just-completed trip started with stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in COVID-19 health and safety protocols. They each missed two games and are back doing their thing again with a combined 60 points in a 121-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. It helped to purge Tuesday’s 124-120 defeat at Brooklyn from their system.
“Just a great overall team road trip,” George said. “Great camaraderie. I thought we built a lot of just team chemistry.”
George had 36 points alone against the Cavaliers, his second highest total in a game this season. He went 8 of 9 from 3-point range as the Clippers combined to make 20 3-pointers and shoot 58.8 percent from distance.
After typically sitting one of the two games when the Clippers played on consecutive nights last season, Leonard requested to play Wednesday, and head coach Tyronn Lue obliged. Leonard was a solid 9 of 14 from the field with 24 points in 32 minutes.
Leonard does not have any nights off for rest so far this season. His four games out of action are two games after taking elbow to his mouth and last week’s pair of games for COVID-19-related concerns.
However, the Clippers will be without point guard Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness), who will miss his seventh straight game.
Los Angeles is 11-2 going back to Jan. 10, a run that started after splitting a back-to-back at Golden State.
The Celtics were 8-3 to open the season but are just 3-6 since and not playing nearly as well as Eastern Conference title contenders such as the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Nets.
Boston started its current trip with a 111-107 victory at Golden State on Tuesday before falling 116-111 to a resurgent Sacramento Kings team on Wednesday.
Jayson Tatum scored 27 points against the Kings and Jaylen Brown scored 21, one game after his 20-point streak was snapped at 10 following an 18-point effort at Golden State.
Boston was playing without three key guards in Marcus Smart (calf), Kemba Walker (rest) and Payton Pritchard (knee). Tatum played more of a point-forward role recording 10 assists, the second time he was in double digits this season. He also had nine rebounds.
“I thought we had a lot of guys that came in and gave us what they had, and I credit them for that,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said.
–Field Level Media