Celts-Clips Delivers Yet Again as Boston Extends Winning Streak to Three
There’s something about these Celtics and these Clippers that always delivers must-see TV.
And there’s something about these Celtics that consistently gives them the advantage, which is a tantalizing fact to consider for anyone who’s rooting for the guys in green.
Boston and LA, two teams considered to be talented enough to compete for this year’s title, went down to the wire Tuesday night for the fourth time in as many matchups over the last two seasons. The Celtics, yet again, found a way to outlast LA for a 117-112 win.
The victory marked Boston’s third in a row over LA during the last two seasons, all of which were earned either during an overtime session or by five or fewer points. It also provided the Celtics with a season sweep of the Clippers for the first time since 2008.
Accomplishing such feats against a team like the Clippers is no easy task. They are loaded with talent and are led by a championship-winning coach. No matter who is in or out of their lineup on a nightly basis, they are a lot to handle.
“I think that they’re really, really good,” Brad Stevens said after the game of the Clippers, “and I think you better have your T’s crossed and I’s dotted to be in the game and have a chance. Our guys did a good job tonight of staying the course.”
That they did, as Boston wrestled with LA throughout a contest that featured 13 lead changes and 11 ties through the first three quarters. Boston had struggled during close games this season, particularly during the last month, but found a way to make the necessary plays to fend off the Clippers Tuesday night.
The C’s strung together a 9-0 run that started midway through the fourth quarter to build their largest lead of the game at 11 points. Of equal importance, they converted just enough free throws and got just enough stops during the final 60 seconds to hold off a late rally from LA and secure both their third straight win over the Clippers and their third straight win overall.
Each of those feats are something of which the Celtics should be proud, beginning with downing the Clippers, who are undoubtedly one of the league’s title favorites this season.
LA famously added superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George during the 2019 offseason and immediately became a perennial title contender. They finished as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and came one win shy of advancing to the Conference Finals.
The Clippers, who changed coaches and retooled the role players on their roster this past offseason, are right back in the thick of things this season. They entered Tuesday with the league’s fourth-best record and are again considered to be title contenders.
Yet Boston has figured out how to defeat them time and time again, including Tuesday night, when Jayson Tatum shot 5-for-16 from the field and Marcus Smart, the team’s top defender, did not play.
In full disclosure, Leonard, one of the top players in the world, also did not play. He was a late scratch with back spasms. But Boston can only play the team that takes the court against them – just as LA did last month when the Celtics were without Jaylen Brown and Smart – and they did so Tuesday night with great success.
Boston shot a red-hot 48.8 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3-point range during the contest. Six of their players scored between 13 and 25 points, led by Kemba Walker’s 25.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the floor, the Celtics allowed LA to score only four points over the final 2:42 of the game, which showcased a level of defensive wherewithal that had been lacking in recent weeks.
“We still have so much to improve, but defensively we’ve been a lot better,” Brown said after the win. “I think during stretches we’ve taken our foot off the gas and blown a 24-point lead, et cetera. You’ve got to continue to guard in this league for the entire game.”
Boston defended well enough Tuesday night to down an elite opponent and grab its third straight win. Now it has ascended back up to the fourth seed in the East and sits just five games out of the No. 1 seed despite its rough patch from Jan. 17 to Feb. 24, during which it lost 14 of 21 games.
The Celtics appear to have turned a corner. Their confidence has returned. Their winning ways have returned. And most importantly, their joy has returned.
“It’s always more fun winning than losing, but I feel like it’s really just us getting close as a team. That’s where the fun is coming,” said Rob Williams. “Once you get close and you’re just out there playing the game freely and how you’re supposed to, the fun never stops.”
Well, if it continues on like this – and that is admittedly a big ‘if’ – Boston might just enter back into the title conversation it was a part of prior to this season.
That would be great news for basketball fans around the world, because it would mean more must-see TV from the Celtics and the Clippers could be in the realm of possibility come July.