Two nights ago the Los Angeles Clippers played a pretty well-rounded game without Chris Paul. Tonight, they were going to need a similar performance with the Boston Celtics coming into town. In a game that most figured the Clippers would win, even without Chris Paul, the Celtics had other ideas. While the Celtics aren't a good team by any stretch of the imagination, they're still a feisty bunch that usually plays hard for 48 minutes. That definitely was the case tonight.
The first quarter really couldn't have gone a whole lot better for the Clippers, outside of possibly outscoring the Celtics by more. Either way, they held the Celtics to just 34.6% shooting while putting up 63.2% themselves. They enjoyed a 9-point lead after the opening frame which was due in part to an 18-0 run that turned a 2-point deficit into a 16-point lead. Granted, the Celtics did shave 7 points off of that lead in the final 3 minutes but you won't find much fault with a near double-digit lead after the first 12 minutes.
The second quarter was basically the reverse of the first quarter. While they couldn't miss shots in the first frame, the good guys had a tough time making shots in the second frame (34.8%) whereas Boston went off for 32 points on 57.1%. In the frame, the Clippers actually got outscored 16-4 by the Celtics in the paint. This is by a Celtics team that averages just 38.1 paint points per game, which ranks 22nd in the entire NBA. So to give up 16 paint points in one quarter is utterly atrocious. Despite the poor second stanza for the Clippers, they still held a 59-55 lead going into halftime.
When the second half started, it appeared like the Clippers might start to pull away from Boston considering the Celtics were on the second night of a back-to-back. That was not the case. The two teams basically played to a stalemate with the Clippers winning the quarter 29-27. However, the quarter was not without its hiccups. Halfway through the quarter the Clippers actually trailed by 1 point. It happened twice. And then IT happened. If you watched the game, you know what "IT" was.
With 4 minutes to go in the third quarter and the Clippers clinging to a 74-72 lead, Blake Griffin hammered down a dunk on Kris Humphries that was the likes of only which a few players are capable of. Griffin not only dunked it but got the foul on the play and hit the free throw. Kris Humphries, who is no stranger to criticism based on his personal choices and past flings, was visibly perturbed about getting dunked on. I guess you can't blame the guy. But it was a sensational dunk that sent shockwaves through the arena. It seemed to fire the team up, as well.
As the fourth quarter got started, the Clippers looked to increase their 6-point lead that they began the frame with. And it looked like the blowout was about to be put into effect when they went on a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter to push their lead up to 16 with roughly 8:30 to go in the contest. However, the Celtics would just not go away. They were the little engine that never said die. Boston kept clawing and chipping away at the lead for the final few minutes when they found themselves down just 4 points with 19 seconds to go. After Jared Dudley missed two key free throws, the Celtics got the ball back and Jerryd Bayless drove to the rim where Blake Griffin contested him with what could have been called a foul. It was a no-call, the Clippers got the rebound, and Willie Green sunk two free throws to ice the game.
Player of the Game honors go to Blake Griffin for this one. He stepped up tonight, even without the dunk, and performed like a true leader does. He finished with 29 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals on 9 of 14 from the field and 11 of 17 from the free throw line. The rebounds weren't there but everything else was. He was terrorizing Boston on the low block all night and even hit some tough jumpers. The 6 missed free throws could be a cause for concern but he did so much in this game.
If there were secondary Player of the Game honors, I think it'd go to Jared Dudley. He had 18 points and helped give us valuable outside shooting to the tune of 4 of 6 from deep. Everyone else on the team was 7 of 24. Now, while Dudley did only have 2 points in the second half and missed those free throws at the end, he still was good. It's amazing how bad our shooting would be without him right now. Especially with Jamal Crawford doing whatever it was he did tonight.
Speaking of Crawford, I do have a bone to pick. He's lazy on offense. Not lazy in the "he doesn't try" sense. More in the "he settles for dumb shots because he gets complacent" sense. I don't care how you slice it. 26 points on 8 of 26 is inexcusable for a player like Jamal Crawford. Especially when he's going 3 of 12 from deep. He did hit a few big shots in this game but that doesn't take away from his overall head-scratching performance. And I didn't even mention Avery Bradley roasting him repeatedly.
For the second game in a row, Darren Collison did an admirable job filling in for Chris Paul and actually is looking comfortable out there. I'd like to see him be more aggressive on offense and stop fading into the back by letting Crawford run the show. He attacks the rim and generally looks like he knows what he's doing. DeAndre Jordan was solid tonight, as well, with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and a monstrous dunk of his own.
It's a good thing the Celtics didn't come out stronger in the first quarter because this could have been a loss if they did. They played tough and never gave in to the Clippers runs. After they got blitzed by 18 fastbreak points in the first quarter alone, they held the Clippers to just 6 the rest of the way. They shut down our running game and made us play in the half-court where Blake Griffin had to carry us. And that's okay on nights like tonight but there are some kinks that need to be worked out.
The Clippers now sit at 2-1 since Chris Paul went down and on Friday night will play host to their Staples Center brethren, the Los Angeles Lakers. Like the Boston Celtics, the Lakers are 1-9 in their last 10 games and are looking like they're starting to get ready for the Draft Lottery. It'd be nice if the Clippers could help them out a little bit by handing them another loss while in return avenging the opening night defeat that was suffered.
For the Boston Celtics perspective on the game, be sure to check out CelticsBlog.