Los Angeles Clippers vs. Boston Celtics Preview (12/29/22): Prediction, Starting Lineups, Odds

The Los Angeles Clippers (21-15) face the Boston Celtics (25-10) in a potential NBA Finals preview. Both teams are fully healthy and ready to test themselves against each other, so grab your popcorn. It should be noted that Los Angeles is 9-4 ATS in the last 13 meetings at Boston.

Will the Celtics build on their current three game winning streak? Odds, predictions, key matchups and starting lineups are below.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Boston Celtics Betting Odds

Boston is a decent favorite, as the spread is -5.5 Celtics with their moneyline at an ugly -225. The Clippers moneyline can be found at +210, so they must only win 33% of the time to be profitable long-term. The 227 over under is one of the larger Thursday totals, which reflects the fact that the over is 11-1 in Los Angeles’ last 12 road games.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Boston Celtics Prediction

I’m taking Boston to cover -5.5 and would play it up to -7.5 here.

Despite featuring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers offense has largely been inconsistent and frustrating. They struggle with passing and lack a stable ball handler to run the action. As a result, Los Angeles is 25th in turnover percentage, 4th in pull-up FGA, 23rd in FGA from 0 dribbles, and 27th in Offensive Rating – a truly abysmal mark for the amount of talent they roster. The Clippers are an excellent three-point shooting team, but they are near the bottom of the league for open 3PA due to the lack of playmakers. In addition, their efficiency won’t neutralize this disadvantage like it usually does because Boston has a slightly higher 3PT% and just as many marksmen.

The underlying metrics confirm the eye test too. Per ShotQuality, Los Angeles ranks 22nd in Adjusted Offensive ShotQuality, which is expected points per possession based on the quality of their total shots and adjusted for strength of schedule. In contrast, Boston – a team that tries to procure the best possible shot – ranks 6th in this metric. The following chart via BBall Index also displays Boston’s underlying dominance over Los Angeles. It displays Overall Shot Quality and Overall Shot Making, which both have dozens of factors that go into it. They help identify the teams that produce great shots and also convert tough looks.

Clippers Celtics Metrics

As you can see, the Clippers are far worse than the Celtics in both categories. That’s extremely concerning because it means not only will Boston generate better looks every possession, but they will also convert contested shots at a higher rate. If that’s the case, what do the Clippers have going for them?

Los Angeles has heavily relied on their plethora of wings to constantly switch and shut down offenses. They rank 4th in Defensive Rating, which has allowed them to compensate for their poor offense. However, their success may slightly decline based on a few factors. On open and wide open FGA, opponents have the second lowest eFG% versus the Clippers, so their Defensive Rating is slightly inflated due to luck. Also, per ShotQuality, Los Angeles is 21st in Adjusted Defensive ShotQuality, which is the same metric except for defense. Boston isn’t elite themselves, but they rank higher at 14th.

While there are concerning trends that indicate Boston is a superior long-term squad, that doesn’t mean it occurs in this specific game. However, examining through an explicit lens also points towards Boston for me. Tatum and Brown are the superior two-way duo currently, not Kawhi and George. Zubac will struggle to handle Horford’s range and Williams’ lob threat, and both Celtics big men can shut him down on the other end. Los Angeles’ praised depth means nothing against a deep Celtics bench, so that advantage isn’t relevant. And the Clippers rely too much on Reggie Jackson to score efficiently off the dribble, which is a scary proposition.

Although the Clippers certainly possess the talent to win this matchup, Boston is too consistent, too deep, and too underlyingly favored to not back them. The Celtics also hold home-court advantage, where they are 14-5 with a 10.1 Net Rating.

Betting Trends

  • Clippers are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games overall
  • Over is 11-1 in Clippers last 12 road games
  • Celtics are 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games playing on 1 days rest
  • Clippers are 9-4 ATS in the last 13 meetings in Boston

Key Matchups

Which team will win the key matchups? Check out below for these vital battles.

Kawhi Leonard vs. Jayson Tatum

Tatum is an MVP-candidate at 31.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 4.1 APG on a 47/35/86 shooting split. His on and off-ball defense has also been stifling. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard has been a mixed bag this season. Some nights he scores 30 points and dominates defensively, and some nights he scores 15 points and doesn’t control the game on defense. His great game rate is rapidly increasing, but it’s not at an optimal level yet. For the Clippers to take down the Celtics, it is vital that Kawhi matches Tatum’s production. Otherwise, Los Angeles no longer matches up with Boston.

Free Throws, Turnovers, Put-Backs, Transition Offense

The Celtics are 2nd in half-court offense, while the Clippers are 23rd. To close that gap, Los Angeles needs possessions with a high expected points per possession, like the categories above. Unfortunately, the Celtics are 4th in opponent free throw rate, 4th in turnover percentage, 6th in defensive rebound percentage, and 2nd in transition defense. They simply don’t allow free points and force opponents to grind every possession. Given Los Angeles is prone to stalling on offense, they may severely struggle to score here.

Los Angeles Clippers Starting Lineup

PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Paul George
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Ivica Zubac

Boston Celtics Starting Lineup

PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford

Key Injuries

Los Angeles Clippers Injuries:

Boston Celtics Injuries: Danilo Gallinari (O)

Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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