One thing a visitor cannot do while trying to knock off a great team on the road is leave points on the board. The Celtics learned that lesson the hard way while falling 111-105 to the Clippers Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
The two teams went toe-to-toe for nearly the entirety of the first three quarters. Boston fell behind by double-digits five times in the first half but made it a four-point game at halftime. The C’s actually led by one point after Kris Humphries nailed a 17-foot jumper with 5:56 remaining in the third period.
Los Angeles responded to Boston’s one-point lead with an 8-0 run but the Celtics still had a prime opportunity to head into the final quarter trailing by just one possession.
After Darren Collison made it 85-79 Clippers with 1:21 left in the third, Boston was sent to the line for seven free throw attempts in the final 72 seconds of the frame. Those free throws gave Boston a fantastic opportunity to keep this game tight.
Had the Celtics gone on to shoot those free throws at their seasonal average of 76.1 percent, they would have been in a four-point game after three quarters. Had they made all of those seven attempts, it would have been a two-point game heading into the fourth.
Instead, it was 88-82, and that score loomed much larger worse than it may seem.
The Celtics shot a woeful 3-of-7 from the line during the final 72 seconds of the third quarter, leaving four critical points on the board. The misses came as a surprise, as the four Celtics who went to the stripe (Jordan Crawford, Kelly Olynyk, Jerryd Bayless and Avery Bradley) entered the game with a combined free throw percentage of 81.3 percent. They didn’t live up to that percentage and their misfires allowed Los Angeles to jump on top 88-82.
A six-point lead may seem marginal, particularly in a contest that was close throughout the first three quarters, but it didn’t feel like a six-point game after the Celtics’ misses. Los Angeles had all of the momentum after Boston missed freebie after freebie. The Clippers carried that momentum into the fourth quarter and began the frame on a 12-2 run that built a lead the Celtics could not fight back from.
Key Box Score Line
Jordan Crawford wanted this game. He wanted it badly. You could see it in the way he played, the way he battled, and the way he went right at the Clippers as if they were his equal.
When you play like that, you’re bound to have a great game, and that’s exactly what happened for Crawford. He tied Avery Bradley for the team high in scoring with 24 points and tied Blake Griffin for the game high in assists with eight helpers. He also added two boards and two steals to his strong performance.
Crawford didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the field but he made up for that with his aggression. He attacked the basket all night long and was sent to the free-throw line for 11 attempts, 10 of which were made. To put that into perspective, no other Celtics player attempted more than six free throws on the night.
His performance wasn’t enough to push the Celtics over the top, but it was admirable to say the least. Crawford finished as the only Celtics starter without a negative plus/minus rating. Boston and Los Angeles scored the same amount of points while Crawford was on the floor for nearly 37 minutes of the game.
Box Score Nuggets
- Four players (two from each team) scored at least 24 points.
- Boston's bench outscored Los Angeles' by a count of 22-12.
- Blake Griffin scored a game-high 29 points and tied for the game high in assists with eight.
- The Celtics scored at least 27 points in each of the final three quarters, while the Clippers scored at least 27 points in each of the first three quarters.
- Los Angeles racked up 24 fast break points to Boston's five.
- Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley tied for the Celtics' high in scoring with 24 points apiece.
- Boston outrebounded Los Angeles 45-37.
- Jeff Green logged a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
- Green's 11 rebounds marked his highest total since notching 15 on April 11, 2011.
- DeAndre Jordan notched a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
- Jordan Crawford tied for the game high in assists with eight.
- Jamal Crawford scored 26 points on 8-of-26 shooting.
- Jerryd Bayless scored 11 points and dished out five assists off the bench for Boston.
- The Celtics shot just 5-of-17 from 3-point range.
Quote of the Night
We got into a defensive rhythm in the third quarter that I haven't seen us get into very often. Brad Stevens on Boston's second-half defense