Following a stumble against the defending NBA champions, the visiting Boston Celtics will be on the rebound Monday when they face the Los Angeles Clippers to continue their West Coast swing.
The Celtics went into San Francisco on Saturday and never led after the first quarter in a 123-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals. Boston has still won eight of its last 10 games and 17 of the past 20 despite the defeat.
Jaylen Brown scored 31 points for the Celtics on Saturday, but Jayson Tatum was held to 18, well under his 30 points-per-game average. Boston was outrebounded 53-39.
“It’s good to play them early in the year,” said Boston’s Malcolm Brogdon, who scored 16 points off the bench. “In a lot of ways, it’s good to get beat by them so we understand that they’re going to play their best game against us regardless of how their season is going. And we can learn from it.
“We’re a team that looks slightly different this year. We have more strengths, I think we’re deeper, and we can attack them in different ways next time we play them.”
The Celtics don’t get another shot for revenge against the Warriors until Jan. 19 in Boston, but do get to move on to face the Clippers, who were projected to be a top team in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles has been plodding along at 15-13 due to a bevy of injuries that have limited star forward Kawhi Leonard to eight games, while fellow team leader Paul George has played in 20.
Saturday was just the seventh time George and Leonard have played together this season, with three of those coming on the team’s just-concluded East Coast road trip. The duo helped the Clippers to a 114-107 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday in a game that was all about John Wall’s return to the nation’s capital.
Wall made his first start for the Clippers in the matchup against his former team and contributed 13 points on a night where he was showered with cheers from the home fans.
After struggles with injuries and personal challenges over the past four seasons, including not playing at all last season, Wall has been a solid addition to the Clippers’ backcourt off the bench. However, lingering knee soreness from Leonard’s surgery over a year ago has prevented the team from reaching its full potential.
In Leonard’s eight games, he has averaged 11.6 points with 5.1 rebounds, well under his totals of 26.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his previous two full seasons in Los Angeles.
“It’s going to take a little time just figuring out the rotations and who plays well with who and trying to figure out how to split Kawhi’s minutes and what’s best for the team and what’s best for him as well,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “And we understand that.”
Reggie Jackson is expected to be back in the Clippers’ starting lineup after sitting out for rest Saturday, while Norman Powell could return from a groin injury.
Boston’s Al Horford in in health and safety protocols, with Blake Griffin in line to get more minutes against his former team. Griffin, who played most of his first eight seasons with the Clippers, has been used sparingly by the Celtics, seeing action in 11 games.
–Field Level Media