BOSTON -- The Los Angeles Clippers sucker punched the Boston Celtics, who went down for the count before waking up dazed and confused without their spot in the playoffs. Boston did throw jabs in the fourth quarter, but after trailing by 35 the fight would've been ended with a technical knockout had this been a boxing match.
The Celtics ended losing Sunday by only 13, by the score of 119-106, and they are now the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference with only nine games remaining.
"They were operating without much resistance," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after the game. "[Chris] Paul is in charge of the whole game. He was really good. And [J.J.] Redick's playing at a ridiculous level. Their two bigs are hard to handle. Matt Barnes is playing at a high level."
Los Angeles' starting lineup had a Net Rating of nearly plus-50 in 22 minutes of play, with an insane 150 offensive rating, per NBA.com.
Whether it was monster dunks by DeAndre Jordan or smooth three-pointers by J.J. Redick, the Celtics were unable to slow them down. The Clippers were consistently dominant, scoring at least 34 points in the first three quarters of the game.
"We didn't provide any defensive resistance at all. Nobody has against them recently," Stevens said of the Clippers, who have now won seven-straight games. "Offensively we missed a ton of great, open looks in the first half, especially from behind the arc. And for whatever reason I thought that affected us negatively."
With a playoff spot on the line, the Celtics can't afford to hang their heads when things aren't going their way. They might've trailed by 14 after the first quarter, but they were achieving open shots despite the fact they were up against one of the best defenses.
Stevens says that he considers changing the starting lineup almost every day, so a change might be due if the first five continue to allow themselves to be slapped around early in games.
"We need to be the team that punches first and doesn't get hit first," Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas explained. "The Clippers hit us first and it was all she wrote after that."
The Clippers didn't just hit first, but they tossed the Celtics to the ground and curb stomped them in front of a sold-out TD Garden crowd. It was nearly as vicious of a beating as the sadness felt after the beheading of Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones.
The only difference between Stark's death and Boston's loss is that DeAndre Jordan's earthquake of a dunk late in the first half wasn't the equivalent of a sword coming down on the neck of the Celtics; it was merely one harsh lashing worth two points.
The Celtics have not been beheaded.
There are nine games remaining and they are only a half game behind the Brooklyn Nets for the eighth and final playoff seed. The Boston Celtics have a crucially important game Monday night against the Charlotte Hornets, but their season is not over yet despite the drubbing they took at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.