Both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Boston Celtics needed a win on Monday. The Clippers had lost three of four, by a total of nine points, to fall behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division. The Celtics were in the second game of an eight-game road trip that could make or break their season. After losing Sunday afternoon to the Lakers, they did not want to go 0 for L.A. to start their trip. Of these two desperate teams, Boston came away with the 94-85 victory, leaving the Clippers that much more desperate.
Boston got the win because their big players came through, while the same can't be said for all the stars of the Clippers. Paul Pierce scored 25, Kevin Garnett had 21, Ray Allen put up 15 and Rajon Rondo contributed a 12-point, 10-assist double double. More importantly, Rondo soundly beat Chris Paul in their battle of All-Star point guards. Paul had one of his worst nights of the season, making just 3 of 12 shots for 14 points. More importantly, he had a mere 5 assists while committing 4 turnovers.
The Celtics got 83 of their 94 points from their starters, but other than Blake Griffin, who scored 24 points on 9 for 15 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds, the rest of the Clippers starters were pretty terrible. The remaining four starters save for Griffin made just 10 out of 39 field goal attempts and tallied only 30 points. Other than Griffin and Paul, Mo Williams was the only other Clipper in double figures with 21 off the bench.
Given that the Clippers as a team shot just 37 percent from the field compared to 49 percent for Boston, it's hard to figure how L.A. was in this game down the stretch, but somehow they were. They used a 17-3 run to take a four-point lead with just over four minutes left to play, and even after Boston had responded with a 13-2 run of their own, L.A. still managed to get back within three with 59 seconds left. But Garnett hit a very tough turnaround jumper with 38 seconds left to stretch the lead to five and slam the door shut.
In each of the Clippers' four losses in their last five games, they have overcome fourth quarter deficits of nine points or more. They've had a chance to win every one of those games -- but have come up short. Early in the season, L.A. was winning every close game behind the brilliance of Paul -- now they're losing those same games.
The Celtics in the meantime are moving in the other direction after winning of seven of their last nine games. They still have a long way to go on this road trip that will take them all over the country, from California to Atlanta to Milwaukee to Philadelphia, but they surely feel better leaving L.A. with at least one win.
Boston improves to 22-19 overall, just 6-11 on the road. The Clippers drop to 23-17 overall. They've now lost five of their last seven home games to drop to 12-7.