The Celtics fell to the Clippers on Tuesday night 114-90, splitting the season series at one game apiece. While Saturday night saw a focused, determined Celtics team grit out a win in Phoenix, Tuesday’s Celtics could not keep pace with the Clippers’ intensity and shooting. Despite a somewhat promising start to the contest, Boston steadily fell behind as the game progressed, and the team now finds itself in fifth place in the East following wins by the Hawks and the Heat.
Isaiah Thomas (24 points, 2 assists, 1 block) began the game with some aggressive play on offense and defense, weaving his way to the hoop and later hustling to block Chris Paul’s layup attempt on the other end. Tyler Zeller logged some good minutes early on, stepping up to knock down the mid-range jump shot with confidence, as Scal noted during the broadcast. Marcus Smart’s trademark defensive effort shone through with an impressive steal that led to an IT corner three. Smart’s offensive woes continued, though, as he bricked all three of his three-point attempts in the first half.
There were a lot of whistles directed at the Cs during the opening quarter. The Clippers escaped the quarter with three fouls compared to Boston’s seven, including one hack-a-DJ in an attempt to get the period’s last shot. The Clippers ended the quarter ahead 30-24 on better than 60% shooting, overall and from three-point range.
The second quarter saw the Clippers expand their lead substantially, aided by a combination of smooth shooting from the Clippers and sloppy execution from the Celtics. One possession saw Boston receive three offensive opportunities thanks to both hustle plays and lucky bounces, but a botched Marcus Smart three-point attempt and a Terry Rozier fumble made it a fruitless trip down the court. The Celtics’ only saving grace in that sequence was that Jamal Crawford stepped out of bounds going the other way in transition. With the Celtics down 41-33, Rozier attempted both a three-pointer and a mid-range jumper on the same possession and bricked both. Crawford then proceeded down the court to drain a three off of a behind-the-back pass from Paul Pierce to show the rookie how the vets get it done.
Between Crawford and Pierce, the craftiness and experience of the Clippers’ veterans was on full display, with Pierce draining a mid-range two after a nifty move and stealing the ball from Sullinger a few plays later. Pierce then scored on a smooth finger roll, but he hyperextended his right knee against Sullinger’s leg on the descent and stayed down on the floor for a minute or two, prompting an outraged Doc Rivers to call timeout. Pierce was able to walk into the locker room under his own power, but the medical staff announced during halftime that he would not return to the game with a right ankle strain and right knee contusion. Despite playing only twelve minutes, Pierce left his mark on the game with 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.
The Clippers torched the Cs from three-point land, shooting 7 of 11 at the half compared to Boston’s 5 of 13. A surprising free-throw-shooting effort from DeAndre Jordan also chipped in to keep the Clippers on top of the Cs during the half, as DJ shot 5 for 7 from the line. LA entered the half ahead 67-50.
Unfortunately for Boston, the third quarter brought more of the same. Poor shooting prevented the Celtics from cutting into the Clippers’ lead, while LA continued to rain threes from behind the arc. At one point during the broadcast, Scal likened the contest to a rec league game, as the Clippers exploited the Celtics on offense and made nearly every shot look easy.
In the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, with the Clippers’ second string in the game, the Celtics made a few effort plays to boost the team’s spirits, but Boston’s energy was soon deflated by the rare sight of a cutting Jeff Green slamming home a thunderous dunk. As the quarter’s halfway point approached, the Celtics found themselves down 103-79 and running out of time to mount a late-game surge. Boston’s late-night faithful were at least granted the pleasure of seeing fan-favorite Jordan Mickey check in, though his first shot attempt resulted in a scorching rejection from Cole Aldrich.
The Clippers ended the game shooting 11 of 25 from three, good for 44% compared to the Celtics’ 36.8%. The Celtics were also only able to muster a 34.8% performance in overall field goal percentage, leading Scal to worry that the Celtics’ scoring troubles were real and likely to hurt them in the playoff hunt.
Next up for the Cs is a visit to Portland to face the Trail Blazers at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, with a nationally televised performance at Golden State looming on Friday.