Final, Clippers win 96-88: Doc Rivers can now say he’s undefeated in Boston — as Clippers head coach.
Rivers’ Clippers recovered after a shaky start and held off a fourth-quarter push by the Celtics to earn Rivers’ first victory at TD Garden as a member of the Clip Show. Chris Paul led the Clippers (15-8) with 22 points and nine assists while Jamal Crawford dropped 21 points off the bench.
Jeff Green poured in a game-high 29 points and Jordan Crawford registered 20 points and nine assists in the loss. Brandon Bass, who did a far better defensive job on Blake Griffin than Griffin’s 18 points suggest, ends up with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Fourth quarter, 1:15, Clippers 93-86: Green drains a three to keep the Celtics kicking, but barely. Paul did his best to sell some slight contact by Crawford on the perimeter and got himself a trip to the foul line for it.
Fourth quarter, 2:10, Clippers 91-83: Paul and the Clippers were getting really frustrated for a while. Their body language when Sullinger hit a layup to cut the score to 85-83 said, How are these guys still in this?
Order appears to have been restored, though. Crawford caps a mini 5-0 run with a triple from the top of the key to put the Clips up eight. It will take something close to a miracle for the Celtics to triumph now.
Fourth quarter, 5:29, Clippers 79-75: If you can figure out this team, let us know — and let most of the folks at TD Garden know, because many of them started streaming for the exits when the Celtics were threatening to go down by double-digits.
Instead, the Celtics have come back with another spark, pulling within four points on a driving layup by Crawford. Rivers, who has lost more than his share of games in this building, didn’t look pleased having to call a timeout.
Fourth quarter, 6:08, Clippers 79-71: Whatever boost Stevens was looking for by inserting MarShon Brooks, it didn’t work. The little-used shooting guard contributed two points, two turnovers and a handful of defensive breakdowns as the Clippers began to take control. It feels like this lead is more than the eight points it is due to the ease with which Crawford and Darren Collison are getting into the paint.
Fourth quarter, 8:35, Clippers 71-66: This game will not go in Courtney Lee’s personal highlight reel. He played less than 15 minutes while scoring zero points and committing six fouls. The fact that most of those were questionable calls against Paul and Crawford is only partly an excuse.
This game’s flow has ground to a halt. Going on four minutes of fourth-quarter action, there has been a grand total of seven points scored in the frame. Three of those points have been Clippers free throws.
End of third quarter, Clippers 66-64: Despite this being an all-around entertaining game, neither the Clippers nor Celtics have completely had a rhythm. The Celtics have gotten just two points from their bench in the game, coming on a layup by Wallace late in the third.
Conversely, the Clippers only have a two-point lead despite the Celtics’ bench only contributing two points.
Bass and Green continue to work, with Green cracking the 20-point barrier before anybody else and Bass notching his second double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 boards. Lee, who has only played sparingly, was icing his knee on the bench but has entered the game. He sprained that knee earlier in the season.
Third quarter, 5:47, Celtics 57-55: There’s something about these Celtics that won’t let them go down easy.
After Willie Green nailed a 3-pointer to give the Clippers a 51-49 lead, the Celtics pulled together and responded with their new favorite weapon: the corner three.
Bradley and Green both canned corner triples, the former coming after an impressive strip by Bass as Griffin attempted a dunk, to restore their lead. Griffin is not having fun with Bass’ defense and could be one harsh word away from a technical foul with the way he is harassing the refs.
Third quarter, 8:27, Celtics 49-48: Rivers always was pretty good at halftime adjustments and it looks like he’s made another one. Jordan, who had one point in the entire first half, already has two dunks in the third quarter as the Clippers are on a 9-4 run to begin the second half.
Halftime, Celtics 45-39: Paul and Griffin are clearly the two guys that run the show for the Clippers, but it would be nice if they could get any contribution from anyone else whatsoever.
Those two have combined for 25 of L.A.’s 39 points so far and nobody else in a blue jersey even looks comfortable shooting the ball. Clippers players not named Paul or Griffin are shooting a combined 5-for-15 from the field. Brad Stevens isn’t going to just take his chance with that, though. The Celtics employed Hack-a-DeAndre at the end of the first half, intentionally fouling to send the 39-percent free throw shooter to the stripe.
He, uh, didn’t come through. He’s 1-for-4.
Griffin hasn’t had an easy night, either. Bass has hounded the All-Star on defense and is tied with Green for the game’s high in scoring with 15 points. Bass also has eight rebounds, the most of anybody in this game. Speaking of quietly solid performances, Crawford has nine points on 3-for-5 shooting and five assists with just one turnover — although that one turnover was a bad one. The Celtics have 12 assists on 18 field goals, just the type of ratio a team without one true scorer needs to compete with a Western Conference contender like the Clippers.
Second quarter, 2:47, Celtics 42-35: If the Celtics had any trepidation going up against Paul, Griffin and the constant threat of The Lob, they are getting over it now.
The Celtics have done most of the early work on defense necessary to prevent the Clips from getting any of those raucous dunks they love so much. By “early” we mean early in the possession, when spacing and preventing the Clips from getting to their spots is important. For once, Bass’ stat line reflects his work, which is not always the case.
Bass has 14 points and seven rebounds, leading everyone in both categories.
Second quarter, 5:54, Celtics 35-31: Green and the Celtics continue to be the aggressors, but the Clippers are finding their rhythm. Crawford, who is like Crawford on steroids when it comes to odd shot selection, has dealt out a team-high three assists while struggling to get his shot going.
(For what it’s worth, Crawford leads everyone with four assists so far.)
Bass and Green have been a dynamic duo. They have 11 points each and their defensive has been as good as their offense. Green’s assignment on Jared Dudley is much less daunting than Bass’ against Griffin, but Green is capitalizing by releasing early and getting out to run on the break.
Second quarter, 8:54, Celtics 28-25: The Celtics have stolen the Clippers’ dunking shoes when they arrived at TD Garden this morning.
Jeff Green, after a heads-up defensive play by Courtney Lee to block Jamal Crawford’s shot and toss the ball ahead, came thundering down the wing to receive a pass from Gerald Wallace and throw down a fastbreak dunk. The Celtics are slamming all over the usually dunk-happy Clips, with Avery Bradley also getting into the action.
With all those dunks, it’s not hard to see why the Celtics are shooting 52 percent from the field and have eight assists on their 13 field goals.
End of first quarter, Celtics 23-20: DeAndre Jordan catching a lob from Paul and hammering the ball into the space between the side of the hoop and the backboard perfectly sums up L.A.’s first quarter.
There was a lot of flash and razzle-dazzle, but the Celtics won the substantive things that mattered, like rebounding and, you know, points. If not for five turnovers, Boston could be running away with this thing.
Blake Griffin has had a particularly tough time with Bass, who is off to a much stronger start than last night. Griffin is 3-for-8 from the field and is warming up his flop game, which is one of the league’s best.
During the break, the Celtics honored Rivers with a video highlight reel on the scoreboard and he was treated to a roaring ovation. The emotional former Celtics coach acknowledged the fans with a wave.
Now that that’s over with, let’s just focus on basketball.
First quarter, 5:43, Celtics 13-10: Jared Sullinger came out strong with a pair of jump shots to open the scoring for the Celtics, who have looked sharper than the Clips despite playing the second leg of a back-to-back. Brandon Bass even got the first dunk of the night off a drive-and-dish by Jordan Crawford.
Everybody expected the Celtics to get a dunk before “Lob City,” right?
Jordan Crawford has started out defending Chris Paul instead of Avery Bradley, Boston’s usual backcourt stopper. Crawford’s been up to the challenge, forcing Paul to take six shots — rather than setting up teammates — while hitting both shots he’s taken for the Celtics.
7:34 p.m.: As expected, Rivers got a round of applause when he walked onto the court during warmups and a roar when he was introduced before the game.
Now let’s get to some basketball.
6:58 p.m.: Expect a sustained and roaring ovation for Clippers coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics show a video tribute to the former Celtics coach during a break in the first quarter of tonight’s game. At least, that’s what fans at TD Garden should do. We’ll see how this really plays out.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that he will be one of the people least affected by the emotion of the night, which Rivers admitted he will not be immune to. Rivers marveled at entering the building and walking “under a banner that I helped get” above the parquet.
Don’t be surprised if he tears up after the montage.
“I’m an emotional guy,” Rivers said. “You know me. I’ve been emotional my whole life. I’m not going to change now. I just hope I can coach the team tonight and get through it.”
Stephen Jackson, freshly signed just two days ago, will be in uniform for the Clippers. Kelly Olynyk, whom Stevens hoped could at least be probable by this game, will not.
The projected starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Brad Stevens hasn’t given Celtics fans much reason to miss Doc Rivers. But a large subset of the fan base undoubtedly has fond memories of its former coach regardless.
Rivers returns to TD Garden on Wednesday for the first time as an opposing coach when he leads his Clippers (14-8) into their latest stop on an extended eastern road trip. This is the Clippers’ fifth game in a seven-game swing that spanned Atlanta, Memphis, Cleveland and Philadelphia, and concludes with contests in Brooklyn and Washington.
The Celtics (10-13), who saw their three-game win streak snapped Tuesday in Brooklyn, are eyeing an upset. Technically, this is a meeting of first-place clubs, but leading a division in the Western Conference — even a subpar division like the Pacific — is more worthy of boasting than the lowly Atlantic. At least for the pregame and the first few minutes, the reaction from the crowd and the emotion of Rivers’ return should trump anything that happens on the court, though.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.