Depending on which reports you choose to believe, the Clippers nearly traded their star center. They didn’t. And it might turn out they have two.
DeAndre Jordan scored a career-high 30 points and Montrezl Harrell keyed a crucial fourth-quarter run as the Clippers sent the Boston Celtics spiraling into the All-Star break with their fourth loss in five games, 129-119.
DeAndre owned the paint. Or the Celtics conceded it. Either way, DeAndre’s rim runs came in greater numbers with less resistance than usual, and he dunked his way to an 11-for-14 shooting line.
Boston had no answer. They thought they did, when on several occasions they resorted to hacking the LA big man. But DeAndre converted at the free throw line too, sinking eight of nine.
Brad Stevens found that the bigger Aron Baynes — who started so that, per ESPN, Marcus Morris could give the bench some scoring punch — and Greg Monroe couldn’t hang athletically. Baynes was whistled for five fouls in 15 minutes. Monroe managed a minus-five rating in just 10 minutes, and responded to several DeAndre slams with palms upturned.
The funny thing is, the Celtics weren’t giving up those lobs at the benefit of smothering the perimeter. The league’s number-one defense by efficiency was bad everywhere. The Clippers rang up 30+ in three of the four quarters and hung a season-worst 129 on their opponents. On the road.
Seven of Doc Rivers’ men scored in double-digits. Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari both eclipsed 20. The Clippers blazed to a 50/37.9/90/9 line. They shot 33 free throws and made 30.
It was primarily through Kyrie Irving’s individual brilliance that this game was ever in question. After trailing from tip to half, the Celtics made it a game in the third quarter as Kyrie dropped rainbows from all over. The All-Star finished with 33 points on just 21 shots, nailing five of his seven tries from deep, although he cooled off substantially in the fourth quarter.
It was in the fourth quarter that Montrezl took his star turn. His defense propelled a 10-0 run that happened in a blink and a half, settling the game and allowing the Clippers to hold serve for the victory. He blocked four shots in 16 minutes.
It was the Clippers’ third win in four games on this current trip, and their seventh in nine overall. This team built its solid record largely by feeding on subpar teams. This win shows that they can do more.
- Danilo is excelling at Blake Griffin’s departed power forward spot. With his diminished athleticism, it’s his appropriate role. He earned 10 free throws and converted them all.
- Tobias dished five assists. The once inveterate gunner is becoming more adept at handing it off in the interior. The Clippers have a complete, well-balanced front court.
- The back court is strong too, even when Lou Williams struggles from the field. But here’s to hoping Doc quits pairing Lou and Milos Teodosic. It’s a license to score for the other team.
- The Clippers return to action against the Warriors in Oakland, next Thursday night on TNT.