FINAL | December 27, 2012 | Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA 

30

30

22

24

106

Celtic Logo

20

27

20

10

77

 

By Eric Patten

LOS ANGELES–It has become such a common sight during the Clippers’ now 15-game winning streak that it almost seems foregone. The Clippers build a lead through the first 36 minutes and keep Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the bench for the duration of the fourth quarter.

It happened again Thursday night, when the Clippers used a 60-point first half to ease past the Celtics, 106-77, at Staples Center.

It was the largest margin of victory over the Celtics (14-14) in franchise history with the Clippers (23-6) defeating Boston, 100-77, six years ago to the day. The win was also the 15th in a row for the Clippers, who own the best record in the NBA. They are only the fifth team since 2006 to put together a streak of at least 15 wins.

“I totally forgot about the streak today,” Paul said. “Honestly, I did. I just love how we’re playing right now and it’s contagious.”

Moment of Truth: The opening half included two 30-point quarters from the Clippers, but the first 6:19 set the tone for the rest of the game. Any sense that the Clippers may be complacent with their league-best 14-game win streak was obliterated when they pounced on the Celtics for a 21-6 advantage.

“Boston, even though their record might not show it right now, they’re a tough opponent,” Willie Green said. “We started off well. I think the important thing is we maintained it throughout the course of the game.”

While Griffin scored nine points in the first 12 minutes and Paul dealt out four assists, fellow starters Jordan, Green and Caron Butler were just as vital. Green scored six of his nine points on the night, Butler made things difficult for Boston’s top scorer Paul Pierce, and Jordan had five points and five rebounds in the quarter, displaying the kind of energy and two-way activity that at times makes him invaluable.

After drawing a loose ball foul on the first possession of the game for shoving Celtics center Jason Collins in the back on a rebound attempt, Jordan avoided his second foul for the next 7:55. He gobbled up an offensive rebound off Griffin’s only miss in the period for a put-back layup, drawing a foul on Kevin Garnett. The play immediately followed a rejection of a Garnett fade away on the other end. Three possessions later Jordan was on the receiving end of a lob from Chris Paul, inciting a Staples Center crowd already abuzz.

Jordan’s alley-oop which he caught at the front of the rim allowed him to hang in the air long enough to gather the ball and throw it down with extra vigor, was the fourth of five consecutive baskets by the Clippers.   

Difference Maker: He only played 24:39, but Butler was a defensive nightmare for Pierce. He spent most of the night riding the league’s eighth leading scorer’s hip, forcing contested jumpers and preventing him from getting to the basket. Pierce finished with 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting, while Butler scored 14, including nine in the third quarter, and had three assists. It was his first double-digit scoring effort since scoring 11 at Detroit six games ago.

“I thought Caron Butler’s defense was excellent tonight,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He did a great job. Paul [Pierce] is a difficult cover and he made it difficult, [forcing] a lot of fade aways and things. He was just really active for us. I thought that set the tone which was great.”

Stat Line of the Night: Lamar Odom pulled down a season-high 13 rebounds with four blocks and five assists. Perhaps, his best play of the night came on the defensive end, helping on a drive by Pierce and tying up the Celtics’ all-star for a jump ball as Pierce attempted a layup.


More Stats: 

Matt Barnes. Paul described small forward Matt Barnes’ play as “unreal” and a reporter in the postgame media scrum referred to Barnes’ stretch of nine-straight games in double-figure scoring as playing “out of his mind.” Either way, Barnes has been one of the more prolific offseason additions in the NBA (which would certainly include Crawford as well). On Thursday, he matched his season-high with 21 points, made five of his nine 3-pointers and added two steals.  

“I’ve been really working these past few summers,” Barnes said. “Last year, I was told when I could shoot, and when I made mistakes I would come out of the game. This year, Vinny [Del Negro] instilled a lot of trust in me to just go out there and play my game. If I mess up, he still sticks with me, and I just think that means a lot to any player.”

Griffin and Paul. Both played fewer than 30 minutes and sat out the fourth quarter, which could be crucial with the team headed to Salt Lake City for a back-to-back with the Jazz. Griffin had 15 points with eight rebounds and Paul added eight points, two steals and 11 assists.

“I’ve probably sat out more fourth quarters this year than all my previous seven seasons,” Paul said. “People talk about how me and Blake’s numbers are down. Well, we don’t play many fourth quarters. And I think it just says a lot about our team and how everything is balanced.”

Green. He made three 3-pointers in his second straight game and scored nine points on the night, adding two assists and two rebounds. Afterwards, he said he’s starting to get in a rhythm.

“Blake, [Jordan], Chris, those guys are sucking the defense in and when they do that somebody has to be open,” Green said. “Sometimes I’m getting wide open and I’m trying to knock them down.”

Garnett. He went for a team-high 16 points and collected four rebounds.

Hot: The Clippers passing. They had 17 assists to three turnovers in the first half and finished the game with 31 assists on 45 field goals and just eight turnovers.

Not: Rajon Rondo. The Celtics point guard had just 10 points (4-for-12 shooting), committed four turnovers and had a stretch of three fouls during a somewhat bizarre third quarter, which featured a flagrant foul by Jared Sullinger and a minor skirmish near the scorer’s table.

Quotables:

On intensity of the game:

Griffin: “[The Celtics] played very intense, they played aggressive, they played physical. And I thought we did a good job of matching that.”

On winning streak:

Jordan: “I don’t really care about it. We’re just playing, we’re rolling. Everybody’s clicking and we’re starting to gel even more. We still have some guys out. Hopefully when they come back we’ll still be able to keep things going.”

On losing to the Clippers a game after a win over the Nets:

Jason Terry: “Right now they [the Clippers] are a better team than us; that is the way they play. So for us it is not something to be frustrated about, we just have to move forward and keep grinding. Last game we did some great things and tonight it wasn’t so great.” 

Notes: Jared Sullinger was assessed a flagrant foul penalty one against Griffin in the third quarter… The Clippers outscored Boston, 17-5, in second-chance points… Crawford had 17 points off the bench, his 17th game topping 15 points off the bench… The Celtics committed 18 turnovers, leading to 26 Clippers points… It was the 11thh win by 12 or more points by the Clippers during their 15-game winning streak… It is the 35th streak of at least 15 wins in NBA history.


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