LOS ANGELES – Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers was not a buzzer-beating defeat akin to what happened to the Boston Celtics at Phoenix on Sunday night.
But that doesn’t make the sting of their 116-102 defeat to the Clippers any easier to stomach.
The Clippers (38-25) got anything and everything they wanted in the second half as they pulled away for a game that was a lot closer for most of the night.
For the game to be as close as it was considering how the Celtics (40-24) were shooting had more to do with the Clippers’ horrible free throw shooting (29-for-47 on the night).
Boston showed some fight in the game’s closing minutes, but it was too little too late with the Celtics now having lost two straight and three of their last five games.
Poor shooting in itself doesn’t spell doom and gloom for a franchise. But when you mix it with shoddy play defensively, it’s a tried and true recipe for defeat.
For the game, Boston shot just 41.0 percent (34-for-83) from the field and were just as bad from 3-point range where they connected on 28.6 percent of their 3’s (10-for-35).
But it was the Celtics poor defense down the stretch that could do nothing to stop Los Angeles’ dribble penetration which led to point-blank dunks for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
Despite missing 13 of his free throw attempts, Jordan had a double-double of 15 points (he was 6-for-7 from the field) along with 12 rebounds.
The Clippers were led by Chris Paul’s 23 points along with Jamal Crawford’s 19 points off the bench to go with five assists – most of which were lobs to Jordan.
Trailing 75-71 to start the fourth quarter, Boston’s Jaylen Brown drained a 3-pointer that made it a one-point game.
From there, it was all L.A. as they went on a 19-6 run that gave them a commanding 94-80 lead.
The hole only got deeper for Boston which looked very much like a team playing their second game in as many nights against a talented, well-rested Clippers team.
Boston’s poor finish was in stark contrast to how the game was played for the first two-plus quarters.
The Celtics pulled ahead 66-53 following a Jae Crowder lay-up in the third quarter which gave the Celtics their largest lead of the night.
But the Clippers, who came into the game as losers in four of their last six games, rallied behind the hot-shooting of Chris Paul as Los Angeles scored seven straight, the last five by Paul.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had seen enough when he called a time-out with 3:08 to play in the third quarter.
Coming out of the time-out, the Celtics turned the ball over and it was quickly converted into a Mo Speights basket.
With the Celtics’ control very much in the balance of shifting towards the Clippers, they went to – who else? – Isaiah Thomas.
After splitting the Clippers defense, he drove into the lane and scored while being fouled by Blake Griffin.
Thomas, who had 32 points for the game, converted the 3-point play that made it a 68-62 game.
The Clippers closed out the third quarter with a 13-3 run fueled by Crawford’s red-hot shooting which propelled them to a 75-71 lead going into the fourth.