The Clippers, ravaged by injuries and forced to rely on more inexperience than Doc Rivers would ever probably like to, are the kind of team that can lure you into a knife fight. Or drive you crazy enough to storm through Staples Center’s secret tunnels.
For a Celtics team that re-entered Staples on the second leg of a back-to-back that started with a heartbreaking loss to the Lakers, losses in four straight for the first time since 2016, and without Al Horford and Marcus Smart, that seemed like a mismatch.
But with a quick start from an improbable one-two punch of Kyrie Irving and Aron Baynes, who combined for 13 points in the first, as well as a foul-heavy approach (Semi Ojeleye had four fouls in just 3:42 in the first), the Celtics more than did their part to try and offset the physically-punishing Clippers with en route to a 113-102 win.
Setting the tone with a 10-1 in the second quarter, the Green’s surge really seemed to come on the back of their bench, which contributed 15 points by halftime, and finished the night with 39 points thanks to their 7-for-16 mark from behind the arc.
“Terry [Rozier] and Shane [Larkin] were really hard to guard,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said after the win. “We need all those guys. We’ve seen all year — it’s not every night that Shane gets an opportunity or that Semi gets an opportunity, but there are matchups where we have to have those guys be good and tonight was one of those nights.”
Deploying the Hack-A-Jordan strategy at times, the Celtics also came through with their best defense against L.A.’s powerful Lou Williams and Blake Griffin tandem, which seemed beyond impressive given the aforementioned lack of both Smart and Horford.
“We did the best we could on Lou, Blake was obviously a huge concern coming without Al,” Stevens, whose team held the duo to a combined 43 points on a 14-for-39 night from the floor, acknowledged. “Marcus [Morris] got that quick foul, so we switched Baynes onto [Griffin], and I thought Baynes did a pretty good job on him.
“For the most part, we were pretty locked in on them.”
Given the Clippers’ struggles this season, this is most definitely a win that the Celtics should have had, but it also means more with Saturday’s meeting with the Warriors looming. Considering the way that the C’s handled the Warriors in their first meeting this season, there’s no doubt that the Dubs have likely had this game circled on their calendar, and would love nothing more than to squash Boston’s seemingly improbable championship hopes with a regular-season reality check at Oracle.
You have to like the Green’s chances of avoiding such a happening with tonight’s ‘get right’ kind of win, and with the chance of Horford or Smart returning to action.
JBL Audio Stat of the Game: Kyrie Irving has scored at least 20 points in six straight games, and his 36 games of at least 20 points are the fifth-most in the NBA.
Full article @ Celtics 113, Clippers 102: Bench, defense helps C’s end 4-game slide
Source: GreenStreet Blog