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Fast Break: Celtics hang tough against Clippers

03.13.12 at 1:37 am ET
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The Celtics‘ 94-85 come-from-behind victory against the upstart Clippers on Monday night certainly gives the team a sense of confidence going into the last month of the season. Boston improved its road record to 6-11, which is an encouraging sign since the schedule puts the C’s away from the confines of the Garden for the majority of their remaining games.

Rajon Rondo registered a double-double (12 points and 10 assists) while Paul Pierce scored 25 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Kevin Garnett had an efficient night — 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting and two blocks. For the Clippers, Blake Griffin scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Resilient Vets: Well, sort of. The devil’s advocate would call it inconsistency. Either way, the Celtics had an auspicious start Monday night, leading the Clippers, 25-21, after the first quarter. Following a dismal second quarter, however, Boston trailed by nine at halftime, 48-39.

The Celtics came out and went on an inspired 15-2 run to open the second half. Boston’s defense was fantastic, holding the Clippers to a season-low 13 points in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was just as volatile as the rest of the game. The Celtics opened up a 10-point lead, 71-61. The Clippers answered, going on a 17-7 run and the game was tied at 78 apiece in the waning moments. The Celtics finally closed the game out by going on a 16-7 run to secure the victory.

The Power of Balance: For the second straight game the all five of Boston’s starters scored in double-digits. Particularly encouraging was Brandon Bass‘ performance: 10 points (5-of-6 shooting) and nine rebounds (three offensive). His confidence was not shaken after missing a critical jump shot which would have given the Celtics a late lead in the final minute against the Lakers on Sunday. Bass did foul out of the game with just over four minutes left, when the Clippers made a frantic run to re-take the lead.

Finding a happy medium: The Celtics’ season has been so up and down. When they win, they tend to go on elongated winning streaks. But, when the Celtics lose, the opposite happens. Part of this is the due to the compacted schedule, and part of this is because of injuries and lack of practice time.

It appears, at least in the last four games, the Celtics are bucking the trend. After a blowout loss against the 76ers last Wednesday night, Boston recovered by dismantling the Blazers in impressive fashion. Sunday’s battle against the Lakers saw the Celtics on the losing side despite an admirable effort. On the same court, the very next night, Boston responded yet again, staving off a solid Clipper team.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Second Quarter Lulls: The second frame has been a constant issue all year for the Celtics. Boston had only eight points through 8 1/2 minutes in the second quarter. 8 points?! Meanwhile, the Clippers grabbed firm control of the game, while closing out the half on an 18-6 run.

Rebounds: It was assumed the Celtics would get crushed in the interior against the Lakers Sunday — which they did — and it certainly was plausible that the athletic ability of DeAndre Jordan and Griffin would also present Boston with issues. With Chris Wilcox out indefinitely the Celtics — who were already the worst rebounding team in the league — are thin up front.

On the other hand, of the 11 Clipper first-half offensive rebounds, many came on 50/50 balls or even balls within the grasps of multiple Celtics. In particular was a play in which Reggie Evans out-hustled three Boston players and scored on a put-back.

Enjoying the Blake Show: Griffin had a tense match-up with Greg Stiemsma. At one point, both players were given dual-technical fouls after jawing at one another. In the second quarter meltdown, Griffin was fantastic. He put a nice touch on a left-handed baby hook over the outstretched arms of Garnett. In the next sequence down the court, Mo Williams found Griffin for a highlight-reel reverse alley-opp jam that will undoubtedly be on SportsCenter’s Top-10 plays and all over YouTube.  Griffin had 15 points at halftime. Check out the episode of “The Blake Show” below…

Peaches and, well, not much: The bench struggled again Monday night. Mickael Pietrus, Avery Bradley, and Stiemsma only had eight points between them. Bradley was effective in his time in the first half, but was non-existent the rest of the way. Stiemsma did his best to hold his own on the interior, but struggled for periods in his match-up against Griffin. Finally Pietrus — who the Celtics desperately need to produce — continued his cold shooting-streak, he is now 4-of-23 shooting in his last seven games, after going 1-for-4 from the field Monday night.

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