The Celtics entered tonight's game with a 22 game losing streak on the road against Western Conference teams, and despite a valiant comeback effort, tonight was not the night that dreadful streak would end.
In the first quarter, the Celtics saw the benefits of a legit center and rim protector, as DeAndre Jordan was dominant on both ends. The Celtics were intimidated to drive into the paint and settled for jumpers, most of which simply weren't falling. Five and a half minutes into the game, the Celtics only had two points.
Tyler Zeller battled Jordan as hard as he could, and had six boards at the half, but he was outmatched. After nine minutes, Jordan hadn't missed a shot and had 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Blake Griffin showed the tremendous skill he possesses as a big man, carrying the ball up the court on several occasions. Griffin's big first half was highlighted by picking Bass's pocket and taking the ball full court before dishing to DeAndre Jordan for a big alley-oop slam.
With Jordan subbed out, the Celtics were much more aggressive going to the cup and made a run, highlighted by a big Brandon Bass slam all over Spencer Hawes. Despite a very slow start, the Celts found themselves down only six after 12 minutes.
Tayshaun Prince made his Celtics debut at the start of the second quarter but checked out after an uneventful 8 and a half-minute stint. Austin Rivers, who was on the Celtics for all of a couple days, scored his first bucket in three games as a Clipper early in the 2nd quarter.
When Jordan returned, he refused to leave the key, and Jared Sullinger took advantage of being left wide open, drilling a three and a couple long 2s. Sully finished the half with nine points and seven boards going against one of the game's best in Blake Griffin.
Marcus Smart provided his usual tough defense, and drilled his first three. He did a great job penetrating the lane, and posted 4 assists in the first half.
Jamal Crawford caught fire and finished the first half as the game's leading scorer with 12 points on 4-8 from the field, and drilled a three with seconds remaining to give the Clippers a 10-point lead at the half at 47-37.
The Celtics shot 29.2% for the half, but were battling down low and actually were tied in rebounding with the Clippers at the half, with an impressive eight boards coming on the offensive end. Unfortunately, grabbing those boards just gave the Celts more chances to miss shots.
The second half was more of the same, with Jordan coming out with a couple dunks just soaring over Celtic defenders. Blake Griffin was hitting jumpers from all over the court, J.J. Redick was hitting pull ups threes on 1-on-0 fastbreaks, and the lead grew all the way to 21 with five minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
Brad Stevens got into his team at that point, and they responded. The Clippers bench is much weaker than their starting lineup, and the Celtics - namely Brandon Bass - took advantage. Bass was very aggressive and playing with great heart - so admirable from a veteran on a struggling team. Bass finished the third with 14 points and brought the Celtics to within 12 after three.
In the 4th quarter, Kelly Olynyk took advantage of Hawes' defense (or lack thereof) and showed the full arsenal he possesses on the offensive side of the ball, hitting a three and driving all the way to the hole.
Marcus Smart continues to look confident from three, and his percentage would have been even higher if not for a couple heaves at the end of the shot clock in the first half. His fourth three of the night brought the Celtics within eight with 8:05 remaining.
Then, Marcus Thornton got hot. He scored seven points in a little over a minute and a half, and along with a couple Brandon Bass free throws, the Celtics were all the way back to within three at 91-88 with 3:21 to go.
The Celtics got a huge stop, but there was Jordan, who got a huge board and another possession for his team. Griffin hit both freebies to put the Clippers back up five.
The Celtics then started intentionally fouling Jordan, who missed a pair. Thornton missed a three, and Jordan was again sent to the line, where he made one of two. After Olynyk missed a three, the Clippers subbed Jordan out, and a Hawes layup put the Clippers up 8 and squashed the rally.
A valiant effort, but another loss in a Western Conference building.