Celtics

Celtics allow season-high 129 points in loss to Clippers

Celtics allow season-high 129 points in loss to Clippers

BOSTON -- Guarding DeAndre Jordan in the paint is hard enough.

When he's making his free throws, that makes it a much bigger problem.

Jordan had a career-high 30 points and 13 rebounds and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Boston Celtics 129-119 on Wednesday night for their fourth victory in five games.

The 6-foot-11 center, a 59 percent shooter from the free-throw line coming into the game, went 8 for 9, including hitting all four when Boston coach Brad Stevens called for his team to foul him twice intentionally.

"Made his free throws," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We were jokingly saying: `When we find the hot hand, keep going to it.'"

Tobias Harris added 21 points, Danilo Gallinari had 20, and Lou Williams 19.

Jordan seemed to feed off Boston's poor pick-and-roll defense every time the Clippers needed a basket.

"Whenever I'm setting picks and rolling, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense," he said.

Jordan was 11 of 14 from the field. He entered hitting 64.7 percent of his shots this season.

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 33 points and eight assists. Al Horford had 20 points, and Marcus Morris added 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Celtics lost for the fourth time in five games, a stretch that has seen them fall behind Toronto for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics gave up over 120 points for the second straight game, allowing a season-high to the Clippers after giving up 121 against Cleveland on Sunday.

Boston hadn't given up 120 before the last two games.

"We couldn't guard them all night," Stevens said. "So that had nothing to do with the start, middle or finish."

The Celtics are 6-9 in their last 15 games.

"I think the theme here is our defense needs to be better," Horford said. "We're a group that's built what we have so far based on the defensive end. We've taken a big step back on that, it's obvious, the last few games."

Boston had opened a 99-95 lead early in the final quarter on Terry Rozier's 3 from the left wing before the Clippers went on 10-0 run over a 1:57 stretch.

Williams sparked the spree by scoring the initial six points, with the first 3 coming on a shot from beyond the arc in front of the Celtics' bench. He added a conventional 3-point play after his driving basket.

Los Angeles saw its lead sliced to three twice before Jordan had an alley-oop dunk and Harris followed with a 3-point play with just under three minutes to play.

Williams' 3-point play made it 126-116 in the final two minutes.

In the third quarter, the lead changed hands 10 times in the final 3:11, with the Clippers taking the final one, 93-91, on Harris' 3 from the left wing.

TIP-INS

Clippers: The are 5-2 since they sent Blake Griffin to Detroit in blockbuster trade on Jan. 29. ... Former Celtics G Avery Bradley got a nice ovation during pregame introductions.

Celtics: Stevens said G Marcus Smart (cut, right hand) will start practicing next Wednesday, and that he put the team in a "tough position" with the injury that he suffered when he cut his hand on glass at the team hotel in Los Angeles in late January.

GRONK COMMOTION

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski walked into the arena early into the third quarter, bringing cheers and a loud reaction from the fans sitting behind the basket where Irving was shooting free throws.

He waved to the fans when he walked past the stanchion to his front-row seat. Later, he danced when he was shown on the video board.

STREAK CONTINUES

Williams scored 15 or more points for the 27th straight game, the league's second longest active streak.

DUNK-FEST

Jordan had eight dunks in the game, four coming in the opening quarter.

NICE START

The Clippers opened a 31-17 lead late in the opening quarter and led 34-25 after one. They held the lead for the entire first half, holding a 61-57 edge at intermission.

UP NEXT

Clippers: At Golden State on Feb. 22. They're 1-2 against the Warriors this season, with all the games decided by double digits.

Celtics: At Detroit on Feb. 23. The teams have split two games.

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Could blowing a 28-point lead deliver a first-round pick to Boston?

Could blowing a 28-point lead deliver a first-round pick to Boston?

Could the so-called worst loss of the Brad Stevens era actually help deliver a first-round pick to Boston in June?

The Los Angeles Clippers, who roared back from a 28-point deficit to stun the Celtics here earlier this month, are set to send their 2019 first-round pick to Boston if it lands outside the lottery. That means Los Angeles would have to make the playoffs, which seemed unlikely after the Clippers dealt Tobias Harris to Philadelphia before the trade deadline.

But as the race for the final Western Conference playoff spots begins to take shape, the Clippers find themselves with pole position next to fellow hopefuls Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers. What’s more, the Athletic reported Friday that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer prefers the team make a playoff push this season. 

On the surface, it sounds counterproductive for the Clippers considering a lottery pick could be beneficial to the team’s rebuilding process, even as they prepare to chase max-contract free agents this summer. But let the Celtics stand as a model of how even a small taste of the postseason can help a young core, especially right before the team adds top-end talent. The Isaiah Thomas-led Celtics got a couple small bites of the playoffs a few years back and, as soon as the team added Al Horford in the summer of 2016, it rocketed the team to the conference finals.

The Clippers won on the road over the Grizzlies on Friday night to improve to 33-27 on the season and now sit 2 games ahead of the Kings and 3 ahead of the Lakers.

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Entering Friday’s action, projections heavily favored the Clippers making the postseason. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gave the team a whopping 80.6 percent chance to make the playoffs based on the team’s performance throughout the season, with the Lakers (9.2 percent) and Kings (8.6 percent) lagging well behind.

Even FiveThirtyEight's NBA projections, which factor in roster and lineup changes, important considering the Clippers’ trade, had the team at 62 percent to make the playoffs, a comfortable distance ahead of the Lakers (28 percent) and Kings (9 percent).

The Celtics would benefit from both the Clippers making the playoffs and the Kings missing out. Boston will collect Sacramento’s first-round pick, so long as it doesn’t vault to No. 1 in the lottery.

Entering Friday’s action, draft-tracking website Tankathon had Boston set to collect picks No. 14 (via Kings), 18 (via Clippers), and 23 (its own). Ranking teams by total pick value, the Celtics projected to have more 2019 draft capital than, say, the Knicks if they landed the No. 2 pick.

That’s important given the Anthony Davis pursuit that could loom this summer. The team that emerges with the No. 1 pick could dangle that selection — more commonly referred to as “the chance to draft Zion Williamson” — and put themselves in the running for Davis’ services. But the Celtics can make a very intriguing package with both picks and proven young talent.

MORE CELTICS

Even though the Celtics can’t formally deal for Davis until July 1, the parameters of a deal could be in place with the Pelicans and Boston would simply draft for them with any 2019 picks that are set to be swapped.

The Clippers' pick is lottery protected again next season before morphing into a 2022 second-round pick if not conveyed by 2020. Given the Clippers’ hopes of adding max-contract talent this summer, there’s a strong chance that pick might simply deliver next June in the event the Clippers fade this season.

But if the Clippers pick delivers, and especially if it ultimately is flipped as part of a deal to acquire a talent like Davis, then maybe just maybe the Celtics coughing up a 28-point lead won’t be as bad as it seemed in the moment.

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ESPN panel favors Celtics to land Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving

ESPN panel favors Celtics to land Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving

For the better part of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Boston Celtics have been surrounded by rumors regarding Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis. Irving is set to be a free agent after this season while Davis will almost certainly be traded by the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2019 offseason. It's unclear exactly what the future has in store for both players, but both could be in different uniforms next year.

However, a recent ESPN panel predicted where the NBA's superstars would be playing next season. According to the panel, the Celtics are the favorites to land both Davis and Irving.

The Celtics earned 61.1 percent of the panel's vote when looking at Davis' move. The reasoning for this is simple. Davis has to be traded on a one-year deal and the Celtics are one of the few teams in the league that can offer the Pelicans an enticing trade offer for the franchise star. Thanks to their glut of young assets including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and several first-round draft picks, many believe that the team will swing the deal, even if they don't have a guarantee that Davis will re-sign with them in the 2020 offseason.

The Celtics have previously indicated that all options are on the table in trade Davis trade talks. It also helps that Davis has recently stated that the Celtics are on his list, as that will give the team a better chance of signing him to a long-term extension

Meanwhile, the panel's projections of Irving are a bit more split. The Celtics received 52.8 percent of the vote for Irving while the New York Knicks got 30.6 percent. It makes sense that Irving's numbers would be lower than that of Davis, as Irving is a free agent and has no hurdles to dodge when considering signing with another team.

It would stand to reason that if the Celtics do trade for Davis, it would incentive Irving to stay. After all, the two are good friends and the Celtics could sell the duo on the idea of playing for a title together with a strong supporting cast.

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