Celtics-Clippers Preview

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin receive most of the notoriety for

the Los Angeles Clippers, though one of the league’s deepest

supporting casts has been a major reason for their success.

Los Angeles looks to extend its franchise-best winning streak to

15 on Thursday night when it hosts a Boston Celtics team that has

mainly held Paul in check the last couple times he’s faced it.

The Clippers (22-6) have surged to the NBA’s best record during

their recent run following Tuesday’s 112-100 victory over Denver.

Paul has been the catalyst for the franchise’s turnaround since

being acquired from New Orleans prior to last season and is

determined to bring it to new heights.

”This is fool’s gold,” Paul said. ”You don’t play for the

regular season. Obviously, you want to build something.”

Paul has 20 assists last two times he’s faced Boston, but he’s

also shot just 3 for 21 in those games and may need help from a

cast of reserves ranking among the best in the league averaging

42.7 points.

Jamal Crawford, making the case for his second career sixth man

of the year award, scored 22 points for the second straight game

Tuesday as Los Angeles improved to 10-2 when he hits the 20-point

mark.

”It’s about getting better and better,” Crawford said. ”We’re

trying to stay locked in and focused.”

The Clippers’ 64 points from their reserves marked the most

since scoring 78 in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 30,

2000.

“We (the bench) are just trying to keep pushing it,” Ronny

Turiaf told the team’s official website. “We’re trying to do

whatever we’ve got to do to give us a chance to win a ball game by

moving the ball from side to side and playing together. If we do

that, everybody succeeds.”

The bench outscored Boston’s 31-11 in the most recent meeting

March 12, but Boston overcame Griffin’s 24 points in a 94-85 win in

the only matchup since Paul joined the Clippers.

The Celtics (14-13), who have won three of the last four

meetings, ended a five-game road losing streak with Tuesday’s 93-76

win over Brooklyn to begin a four-game trip. They had lost four of

their previous five overall but forced 20 turnovers and set a

season best for points allowed.

Boston also plays at Golden State on Saturday before ending its

trip Sunday at Sacramento.

”It was good to get off to this start. It was good to finally

play from start to finish,” said Paul Pierce, who along with Kevin

Garnett scored only eight points. ”So it was a well-balanced game,

but I’m happy with the start of the trip.”

Garnett added 10 rebounds to tie Charles Oakley for 15th on the

NBA’s career list, but he has only one double-digit rebounding

effort in his last eight versus the Clippers.

Rajon Rondo’s five assists Tuesday were his fewest this season

excluding Nov. 28 against Brooklyn when he was ejected in the

second quarter. He’s averaging 10.5 assists in his last four games

versus the Clippers, though, and his 13.8 points per game against

them are his best versus any team.

Rondo and Paul are the NBA’s top two assist leaders, with Rondo

averaging 11.9 and Paul dishing out 9.5 per contest.