Visitors got what they deserved
Imagine some guy toddling along on the 5, the 405, the 110, the 91, or whatever, listening to his beloved Los Angeles Clippers (c’mon, play along with me) on the radio. The guy must have thought venerable play-by-play man Ralph Lawler was having a spell.
For if Ralph was to be believed, the Clippers were annihilating the Boston Celtics in their own building. I mean, they were burying them, shooting 68 percent to grab a 60-42 halftime lead.
Now imagine that guy when a Kevin Garnett jumper cut the lead to 86-83 with 5:38 left. Given the terrible weight of Clippers history, do you really think the guy figured they could hold on?
But they did, which meant justice was served. The Clippers had done far too many good things to leave TD Garden with an L. Led by Mo Williams, they stopped the Celtics’ advance and walked off with a well-earned 108-103 victory that ended Boston’s latest winning streak at five.
In case you’re wondering, the Celtics were dry-eyed in the locker room.
“No one cried,’’ said Doc Rivers. “We lost the game. We’re good.’’
Well, no actually, the Celtics weren’t very good for most of the evening, particularly on defense. Truth be told, they have been living on the edge in a lot of ways recently. They could easily have lost to both the Warriors and Bucks. Last night things caught up with them and they got what they deserved. It’s as simple as that.
There was talk of scalper action beforehand, which might be a Celtics first as far as the Clippers are concerned. The reason, of course, was the Boston debut of the dynamic Blake Griffin, the league’s most talked-about rookie, and player, for that matter. But Griffin was of absolutely no consequence, scoring 12 exceedingly quiet points on 4-for-14 shooting. He didn’t even throw one down until there was 1:35 remaining, dunking lefthanded on the left baseline on a little pick-and-roll action when the Clippers were already up by 9.
So, Doc Rivers, if someone had told you before the game that Blake Griffin would be an afterthought, would you not have expected to be analyzing a victory?
“Yeah, but, you know, Mo Williams has been playing terrific for them,’’ Rivers said. “If you had told me DeAndre Jordan would have 21, I’d not have been very happy about that.’’
Jordan is a second-year center out of Texas A&M. They list him at 6 feet 11 inches, but he plays about a foot bigger. His arms reach from here to Presque Isle. As they like to say these days, he’s long, very long.
And such was the disarray with the Celtics’ early defense that this non-shooting, completely offensive-challenged young man had four of his seven dunks in the first quarter. It seemed as if every time you looked up he was taking a penetration feed and dunking on someone and punctuating it with a Perkins-like scowl. Doc may be the regional president of the DeAndre Jordan Fan Club, but seeing him score 21 on 9-of-10 “shooting’’ is not what he had in mind.
“I was talking about Jordan before the game,’’ Rivers pointed out, “and it’s rare when you get a young kid that really doesn’t need to score, sets picks and blocks shots, and if scoring comes on rolls to the basket he’ll take it, and he’s happy with that. That’s unusual, and that’s great.’’
But there was a lot more going on as the Clippers changed a 10-9 Boston lead into a 30-17 one-quarter advantage and, eventually, a pair of 20-point second quarter leads (58-38, 60-40). Williams was ridiculously unstoppable, the Cavaliers’ expatriate guard scoring 18 of his game-high 28 in the first half, basically acting as if he were playing a private game of H-O-R-S-E, as opposed to playing against actual NBA competition.
The Celtics have bench issues at the moment; everybody knows that. The five men Doc put on the floor to start the second quarter were all wearing other uniforms before the All-Star break. But that had nuthin’ to do with nuthin’, as far as the first quarter Boston defense was concerned.
“It started out with the starters,’’ Rivers declared.
It was give 2, get 2 in a fast-paced opening three minutes, at which point it became give 2, give 2, give 2, give 2, and I think you get the picture.
“I don’t know what the explanation is,’’ Rivers said. “You know, I thought our energy was really low to start the game, really . . . And, you know, I told them at halftime we’re going to get back in the game [but] it’s going to be very difficult to turn them off. Because once you turn a team on, and they start making shots, they’re comfortable.’’
But there it was, the lead chopped to 3 (86-83), with more than five minutes to complete the comeback. So what does Rajon Rondo do? He fouls Williams on a jumper behind the 3-point arc. Williams swishes all three. And at 89-85, Garnett knocks a Williams drive out of bounds with 11 seconds on the 24, smirking afterward, of course. But Williams was the one laughing last as he nailed a right corner three. Justice, I’m tellin’ ya, justice.
The cavalry can’t come to the rescue soon enough. The starters need some backups. The Bulls trail the Celtics by just two in the loss column, and now the Celtics head to Philly, where Doug Collins has the Sixers playing great and you know they’ll be treating this one as a mini-Armageddon. The Celtics, such as they are, had better come to play.