LOS ANGELES – When you look at how this season has played out for the Boston Celtics, very little has come easy to them.
So it only made sense that the Celtics would get back to their winning ways on a night when the degree of difficulty in getting a victory would be high.
Despite missing two key players in Al Horford and Marcus Smart, Boston pulled away with a strong second half surge to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 113-102.
Kyrie Irving led five double figure scorers for Boston, with 20 points along with eight rebounds and seven assists. Jayson Tatum bounced back with a strong game as well, scoring 18 points to go with six rebounds.
The Clippers were led by Blake Griffin and Lou Williams who had 23 and 20 points, respectively.
The Celtics have beaten better teams than the Clippers (23-24) this season, but there aren’t many games that Boston absolutely needed to win as much as tonight’s matchup.
And the circumstances by which Boston came away with the victory, makes it all that much sweeter.
Think about it.
Al Horford was held out after taking a blow to the head the previous night against the Los Angeles Lakers. And Marcus Smart was a last-minute scratch after suffering a cut to his right (shooting) hand that required stitches to close.
Oh, did I mention that the Los Angeles Clippers defensive stalwart DeAndre Jordan (ankle) was playing?
Despite being severely undermanned, the Celtics got off to a solid start and led 25-22 at the end of the first quarter.
One of keys to Boston’s early success was rebounding which was a major concern 1) because they haven’t been good at it lately and 2) Jordan (ankle) was going to play. He would finish with a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds.
But in the first, the Celtics actually held a 14-11 advantage on the glass and had a 7-5 advantage in second-chance points.
Both teams were in can’t miss mode for large chunks of the second quarter as the two combined to score 70 points while each shot 50 percent from the field.
Jayson Tatum, who had just four points on 1-for-6 shooting in Boston’s 108-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the second quarter alone which proved to be one of the keys to Boston taking a 62-55 lead into the half.
The Celtics picked up where they left off in the third, scoring the first six points of the quarter to push their lead to 68-55.
Following a Clippers time-out, they responded with a 16-6 run that cut Boston’s lead to 74-71.
And once again the Celtics delivered an appropriate response, scoring seven of the next nine points to lead 81-73 with less than three minutes to play in the third.
The Celtics continued to control the action and went into the fourth with a comfortable 91-77 lead.