FINAL | February 3, 2013 | TD Garden, Boston, MA















BOSTON–TD Garden was restless, perhaps even nervous as the Clippers etched themselves back into Sunday’s afternoon’s game with the Boston Celtics after trailing by as many as 19 points in the second half.


But Paul Pierce drilled a step-back 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Celtics a five-point lead with 2.5 seconds left and stymied the Clippers’ comeback, 106-104.

It was the second loss in a row for the Clippers (34-15), who could not overcome 21 turnovers that led to 30 Boston points or a season-low 10-point second quarter that allowed the Celtics (24-23) to pull away early.

“We didn’t shoot it well, we didn’t guard it well,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said of the second-quarter spurt from Boston which saw them outscore the Clippers 26-10. “They got a big run on us. We tried to make some changes and things, but just have [Eric] Bledsoe as the point, so we’ve just got to do a better job kind of controlling tempo and taking care of the basketball. The turnovers are what did us in tonight.”

Bledsoe started in place of six-time All-Star Chris Paul, who missed his seventh consecutive game and tenth in the last 12 with a bruised right kneecap.

Moment of Truth: Pierce’s shot and the moments leading up to it. The Clippers outscored the Celtics 27-14 in the fourth quarter thanks to a defense that forced seven turnovers and held Boston to 35.7% in the period. However, they only scored two points off of Boston’s miscues and failed to execute on two of the three offensive possessions leading up to Pierce’s dagger from the wing.

With the score 101-98, Crawford was ruled out of bounds as he made move along the right sideline. Two possessions later, with 26 seconds remaining, L.A. was within two points when Crawford was whistled for an offensive foul after he appeared to bump Avery Bradley with his shoulder. Crawford said he wants to see a replay of the sequence because he didn’t feel the contact with the Celtics’ guard.

Nearly 24 seconds later, Pierce milked the shot-clock and canned the game-sealing shot, a step-back 3-pointer almost next to where Del Negro was standing on the sideline over a contest by Matt Barnes.

“I wouldn’t want to foul Paul Pierce late,” Del Negro said. “If we get a stop there with three or four seconds to go, we’ve got plenty of time in a two-point game. If I was going to do it (foul) I would have fouled Courtney Lee early right when he got the ball.”

“He hit tough, step-back three at the [shot-clock] buzzer,” Barnes said. “That’s what he does. He’s a great player and he hit the shot when it mattered.”

Difference Maker: Leandro Barbosa. Even as the Clippers seemed to make a move late in the third quarter with Crawford banking in a 3-pointer from straightaway and Eric Bledsoe finishing off a steal with a dunk in transition, Leandro Barbosa had an answer. He connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing and then a runner around Matt Barnes as time expired in the period. Pierce made the biggest shot of the day, but Barbosa was as big of a part of fending off the Clippers as anyone. He finished with 14 points in 20:36 off the bench.

Stat Line of the Day: Bledsoe. He had his ups and downs in terms of decision-making and early foul trouble, but Bledsoe still managed an eye-popping stat line. He matched his career-high with 23 points, dished out 10 assists (five in the first quarter), grabbed seven rebounds and made two steals. He also bounced back from three poor shooting performances in a row to go 9-for-15 from the field, including a 3-pointer from straightaway with 56.2 seconds left to shave Boston’s lead to two.

“I work on my shot a lot,” Bledsoe said. “Fortunately, it fell for me today. [Assistant Coach Robert Pack] tells me all the time don’t worry about that shot. Take the next one. You’ve got to take the next one with confidence and know you’re going to make it.”

More Stats: 

Crawford. He opened the game wearing a protective mask over his fractured nose, but despite making his first shot, a 3-pointer from the right wing, Crawford took the mask off early in the second quarter.

“It was just too uncomfortable,” Crawford said of the mask. “[Trainer] Jasen Powell did such a good job putting it together that I feel bad taking it off, but it was just so uncomfortable at certain points I just had to take it off and take my chances.”

He finished with 23 points off the bench, including 12 of the team’s 27 fourth-quarter points, along with six assists, two steals and six turnovers.

Griffin. He secured his 20th double-double of the year with 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. But despite going 8-for-14 from the field, Griffin missed two shots down the stretch that could have impacted the outcome. He got to the rim after a steal by Lamar Odom, but had his layup blocked by Jeff Green on a shot that appeared to be on its way down when Green made contact with it. Later he missed a spinning right-handed hook over Kevin Garnett that could have extended L.A.’s 15-3 run.

Pierce. The 10-time All-Star connected on the biggest shot of the game and scored a team-high 22 points for Boston on 7-of-16 shooting. He made four of his six 3-pointers.

Hot: Boston’s bench. In a reversal of fortune from the Clippers’ 29-point win over the Celtics at Staples Center on Dec. 27, the Celtics’ reserve unit controlled the game at times Sunday. They outscored the Clippers’ bench 52-29 with all five players scoring, including 14 apiece from Green and Barbosa.

As a group Boston’s bench went 17-for-26 (65.4%) and made six of Boston’s 11 3-pointers.

Not: The Clippers in the second quarter. They went 4-for-18 and scored a season-low 10 points in the period. Odom made a fadeaway jumper from the free throw line with 7:50 left in the period to end a scoreless drought of 5:19, between the end of the first and start of the second.

“They had us on our heels [in the second quarter] and they were the aggressors,” Crawford said. “And that’s what we did to teams when we were most successful. They did that tonight and you tip your cap to them, but if we would have come out with the same effort and energy we had in the second half, it would have been a different outcome.”


On the game:

Del Negro: “I thought we fought back well. Obviously, we had some chances. But we turned the ball over way too much. And we’re a little out sync right now, you know, with the rotations, but that’s no excuse. We just played harder in the second half. They made some tough shots, which sometimes you’d expect.”

On feeling a little out of rhythm:

Barnes: “I was hesitant in the second half, shooting because I didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half. And really in almost a week, getting kicked out early in the Minnesota game and not playing the last game. I was a little out of rhythm offensively, but I tried to play cover them out on the defensive end and help our team that way.”

On comeback:

Bledsoe: “We just weren’t going to give up. We played through our mistakes.”

Crawford: “You have to play perfect, no question about it. They (the Celtics) have championship grit. They’ve been there before. They know how to control possessions. And we did a good job fighting back to give ourselves a chance. We just dug ourselves into too much of a hole.”

On final play:

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers: “Our thought was take it to the end of the clock, because it wouldn’t give them a lot of clock coming back, and then attack and space.  You know Paul (Pierce) is a shot-maker so he made a shot.”

Notes: The Clippers moved to 2-7 all-time on Super Bowl Sunday… Boston is 4-0 without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, who is out for the remainder of the season with a torn right ACL… Caron Butler scored 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting (3-for-5 from long range) with five rebounds but did not play in the final 10:24… The Clippers shot 50.6% from the field a game after a season-low 34.7% outing in Toronto… They out-rebounded Boston, 41-29. It is the second time this year the Clippers have owned a double-figure rebounding advantage in a road loss… The Clippers are 9-9 since their franchise-record 17-game winning streak.



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