Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics sink Clippers ship
|02.03.13 at 3:44 pm ET|
The Celtics nearly blew a 19-point halftime lead, as the Clippers closed to within a single possession with three minutes to play, but a long Jason Terry jumper with 1:09 remaining and Paul Pierce‘s 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds on the clock helped put the game away, 106-104. Matt Barnes and 37 combined turnovers made for an ugly basketball game, but the C’s improved to 4-0 since All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bench production: Facing what many consider the NBA’s best bench — save for Eric Bledsoe‘s insertion into the Clippers starting lineup in place of the injured Chris Paul (knee) — the C’s reserves made a statement in the first half. The Celtics bench outscored their counterparts 32-5 in the opening 24 minutes, reaching that total on just 15 shots. Terry and Jeff Green led the way with nine points apiece by the break.
Jamal ball: Conversely, the Celtics kept Jamal Crawford and his explosive offense under control until he heated up late. C’s coach Doc Rivers stuck Avery Bradley on the perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and when Bradley picked up three first-half fouls, Courtney Lee picked up where his backcourt mate left off. Crawford, who broke his nose against the Raptors on Friday, grew so frustrated that he abandoned his protective facemask.
Balancing act: Once again, just about everybody stepped up in Rondo’s absence. Green, Terry and Leandro Barbosa all reached double digits off the bench. Pierce owned the third quarter. Brandon Bass tied his career high in assists (4). And Jason Collins set a new season high for scoring (5). Rivers needed to capture his team’s attention after a 20-23 start; it’s too bad it took Rondo’s season-ending injury to do it.
WHAT WENT WRONG
First-quarter defense: The Celtics scored 33 points on 59.1 percent shooting but only took a three-point lead after the first quarter. That’s because Blake Griffin & Co. scored 30 points on 60.0 percent shooting in the frame. Griffin, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan lived up to their Lob City billing, combining for five dunks and 23 points in the first. The C’s remedied that porous defense in the second, when they outscored the Clips 26-10.
No Paul ball: Without Paul in the lineup, not only did Boston fans miss out on seeing one of the game’s great players, but the Celtics missed an opportunity to see how this Rondo-less group stacks up against one of the league’s best teams. With less than three weeks until the trade deadline, wins over the Heat and a full-strength Clippers squad in the span of a week on national TV might have offered C’s president Danny Ainge a better window in his team’s potential sans Rondo.
Bradley’s shot: Granted, foul trouble disrupted Bradley’s flow, but the Celtics guard continues to struggle with his shot since returning from double shoulder surgery. He entered the game shooting 40 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3-point range. This after shooting 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3 last season. Against the Clippers, he made just 2-of-8 shots and missed both his attempts from beyond 12 feet.