BOSTON — The Celtics are far removed from the days of Paul Pierce taking games over in the fourth quarter. But after the way Boston won Wednesday night, it appears the team is just fine without a “transcendent” star like Pierce.
As the Los Angeles Clippers forward looked on, his former team defied the odds time and again at TD Garden, getting clutch plays from starters and bench players alike to earn a thrilling 139-134 overtime win.
Just how unlikely was Boston’s victory? Kelly Olynyk exited in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, Marcus Smart fouled out with a minute to play and Jae Crowder fouled out less than two minutes into overtime, meaning the Celtics were without three of their seven top scorers trailing a Clippers team loaded with All-Stars.
But the pesky C’s were undeterred. At the end of regulation, it was Isaiah Thomas rising to the challenge, as the All-Star scored Boston’s final three baskets and hit a fadeaway jumper over Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan with 5.8 seconds remaining to force overtime.
“He’s great,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Thomas. “He makes big shots, he’s tough to guard. I’ve never seen a little guy that makes — other than Spud (Webb), maybe — that makes his living in the paint.”
Yet the true strength of Boston’s depth was on display in overtime. After the Clippers scored the first six points of OT and appeared to be pulling away, Celtics reserve Evan Turner dropped seven points in the span of a minute to give the C’s a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Evan just got going,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “He hit tough shots, but he hit shots that we’ve all seen Evan hit. Evan likes that moment. We’ve talked about that before. Evan is very fond of the big moment, and he can operate in the big moment.”
Turner entered Wednesday averaging just 9.8 points per game, but the former college basketball Player of the Year admitted he loves late-game situations.
“I try to be aggressive,” Turner said. “I know a lot of people fade in those moments, but I just always took great pride in trying to perform down the stretch.”
The Celtics have been excellent late in games recently and have outscored their opponent in the final period in four consecutive games. They’ve accomplished those feats while getting contributions from everyone, which is a testament to this group’s remarkable refusal to give up.
“We just keep fighting,” Thomas said. “That’s what this team is about. We never give up, we just continue to fight no matter what the circumstances are. At a point in time in that game, our backs were against the wall and it seemed like the game was over. But we just kept at it, made plays down the stretch and came out with a win.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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