“We have to approach our team.” Said Rivers. “That’s how we approach the Celtics. With all the injuries and thing’s we’re dealing with, we can’t afford to look at anything but our team every night.”
So, like a gnat that just wouldn’t go away, the rebuilding Celtics wouldn’t let the more talented Clippers swat them into the Staples Center night until late in the game.
How about until the final horn.
The Celtics came back from Clipper leads - by as many as 16 points - three different times during the course of the game.
The Clippers (25-13) finally got by the pesky Celtics (13-23), 111-105 completing a two-game regular season series sweep.
“I thought we played in spurts.” Said Rivers. “It just felt like every point we had a 12 point lead, we kind of relaxed, gave it up, did it again.”
Down two early in the first, the Clippers proceeded to score 18 unanswered to take a 26-10 lead and held a nine point lead after one.
But the Celtics climbed back into the game cutting into that lead even more trailing just 59-55 at halftime.
“It takes a lot of energy but that’s what we had to do.” Said Celtics guard Jordan Crawford who finished with 24 as did backcourt mate Avery Bradley. Crawford continued. “We dug ourselves in a hole. It was our fault that we were down, so we wanted to fight and get back in the game.”
With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, the Celtics finally jumped ahead, 72-71.
After a Darren Collison knocked in three of his 15 points to put the Clippers back on top by two, Blake Griffin had another one of his patented “Mozgov dunk moments.”
This time his victim was Kris Humphries who was posterized and Jamal Crawford had the assist giving the Clippers a 76-71 lead.
“I thought it was a good read by Jamal, it was good timing.” Said Griffin who led everyone with 29 points. “Every time something like that happens, it’s always the situation that it creates. Getting the ball at the right time, Jamal finding me, DJ (DeAndre Jordan) is in the right spot to make Humphries be a little bit late on that.”
That play seemed to spur the Clippers on. They led by six after three and opened another 16 point lead halfway through the fourth at 100-84.
That usually means “Lawler’s Law” is in effect. Clippers longtime voice Ralph Lawler proclaims first team to 100 wins. That’s the law.
These Celtics don’t live by that law.
Employing a full-court press, first-year Boston coach Brad Stevens got his team to within four at 109-105 and with a chance with 22 seconds left in the game.
“We went small. They’re playing with nothing to gain and we’re playing with everything to gain.” Said Stevens. “It’s a lot easier to play when you’re behind in that moment, than when you’re ahead. I thought we were very aggressive.”
The Celtics didn’t get any closer.
It was the third game without injured all-star point guard Chris Paul for the Clippers.
Every starter for Los Angeles scored in double figures. They needed every point because the Clipper bench only generated 12 points.
Jamal Crawford – ordinarily the Clippers sixth man off the bench – had 26 points.
Center DeAndre Jordan continues to put up all-star numbers with another double-double registering eleven points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Jared Dudley added 18 for Los Angeles.
The Clippers host the Lakers – who lost their ninth game in their last ten falling to Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets Wednesday night, 113-99 - Friday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers beat the Clippers on opening night. Friday’s tip-off is set for 7:30. Clippers guards J.J Redick and Reggie Bullock could see action for the first time since injuries sidelined the two last month.