Along with the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics have already secured a playoff spot in the NBA’s increasingly competitive Eastern Conference. Coming into tonight’s matchup at TD Garden in Boston, MA, the Celtics had won its last five games and were looking to stay on top of the East as new players like Carlos Arroyo, Sasha Pavlovic and Troy Murphy get used to playing in Boston, while its opponent, the L.A. Clippers, had won three in a row but are nowhere near playoff contention in the Western Conference.
Playing like they had something to play for, the Clippers shot the lights out early and often, culminating in a 60-42 lead at halftime, thanks to hot shooting from the likes of DeAndre Jordan (21 points) and Mo Williams, a familiar Celtics foe from his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and who scored 28 points this night. The lead swelled to as high as 23 in the third quarter when the score was 65-42.
But the Celtics rallied in the fourth quarter and shaved off 20 of those points to make it a 86-83 game with under six minutes left, thanks to a mid-range jumper by Kevin Garnett (who had a bad shooting night, going 5-for-19).
The story of this game was poor defense in the first half by the Celtics, who allowed several several uncontested and successful Clippers shots and dunks, and got out-hustled for rebounds by the likes of former Celtic Ryan Gomes (12 points). In all, Williams made five three-pointers, and his and Gomes’ threes in the final minutes of the game proved to be daggers in the Celtics’ late comeback attempt. The final score was 108-103.
The other story is that star players like Blake Griffin of the Clippers and Rajon Rondo of the Celtics had off-nights. Griffin was 4-for-14 from the field and had just seven rebounds (for a player who is among the league leaders in boards with a 12.5 rebounds/game on average).
Rondo had just two assists at halftime and didn’t pile up that number to nine until the Celtics made its late run in the fourth quarter. Much of the lack of assists by the NBA’s league leader in that category can be traced to poor offense by Boston, who shot an usually low 44% from the field, while allowing the Clippers to shoot 52%, a number too high for one of the best defensive teams in the league over the last four seasons.
The loss marks Boston’s first since losing in Denver on the night of the NBA trade deadline on February 24, when it had a short bench due to trading five players to three teams (in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, who would arrive days later). The Boston Celtics now have a 1.5 game lead over the Bulls for first place in the East.
Photo credit: bleacherreport.com