After the Celtics took a double digit lead late in the third quarter, the Clippers rallied back with a massive run to take control and pick up the home win. Boston went small almost all game and it eventually cost them in the second half, as Los Angeles got basket after basket inside. That then opened up the outside and LA rolled to the finish.
Without Al Horford (elbow injury), the Celtics kept Jaylen Brown in the starting lineup despite the return of Avery Bradley to the lineup. The small unit worked early on and kept the Clippers off the glass and forced tough looks from LA. As the game rolled along, the Clippers eventually wore Boston down and got several dunks inside. At one point the run stretched to 43-14 behind DeAndre Jordan dunking over and over and Jamal Crawford hitting jumper after jumper. Overall, over a 12:00 minute span bridging the third and fourth quarters, the Clippers outscored Boston 54-27 on 20-33 shooting from the floor, including 6-7 from behind the arc.
Things really turned for the worst for Boston when Brad Stevens went with a lineup of Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, James Young and Jordan Mickey to close the third quarter. That was the group that allowed the Clippers to open the floodgates and take control. At this point in the season, even when down key players like Horford and Jonas Jerebko (who missed the game with the flu), Boston can’t be playing lineups that look like they are more suited to Summer League versus the middle of a playoff run.
Jordan and Blake Griffin got it done inside for LA with 15 and 26 points respectively. They also combined for 20 rebounds. Chris Paul, despite sitting for most of the fourth quarter with some sort of elbow injury, scored 23 points and Crawford sparked the reversal of fortune with 19 points off the bench. Crawford even made a back breaking four-point play late in the fourth quarter, which has become his specialty over his long career.
The Celtics were led by 32 points from Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley is showing signs of being fully healthy with 14 points of his own, several off his patented well-timed cuts to the basket. Birthday boy Marcus Smart also stepped up with 21 points and recovering several loose balls throughout the game.
Jae Crowder, despite eight rebounds and battling inside, was missing offensively, as he went just 3-13 from the floor and 1-7 from distance. Amir Johnson gave it the best effort he could in the paint and fought hard, but was too often the only big able to gain any traction. Overall, the Celtics need better health to put their players in the right roles as the season winds down and the team gets ready for the postseason.
The loss is the second in a row for Boston following wins over the Cavaliers and Lakers. The Celtics have a tall task to get back on track against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Wednesday night.