BOSTON — The Celtics gave Paul Pierce a fitting tribute Sunday afternoon, but they didn’t cut his team any slack between the whistles.
Boston dispatched the Los Angeles Clippers 107-102 in a wire-to-wire victory at TD Garden, sending Pierce off into the sunset with a loss in his final visit to the city before he retires at the end of the season.
Isaiah Thomas (28 points, eight assists), led a balanced Celtics attack that put seven players — including all five starters — in double figures.
Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin paced the Clippers with 23 points each.
Here’s how this one went down:
Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, Amir Johnson
CLOCKING IN EARLY
The “King of the Fourth” didn’t wait to heat up. Thomas dropped 13 points in the first quarter, drilling two 3-pointers to help the Celtics jump out to a 29-19 lead after 12 minutes.
Pierce missed the only shot he took before exiting after five minutes to a rousing ovation. After the dust had settled from Pierce’s moving tribute, the C’s got right back to work, holding L.A.’s potent offense to just 33 percent shooting (8 for 24) in the first frame.
STEMMING THE TIDE
The Clippers fought back in the second quarter thanks to the efforts of their bench, which scored 23 of L.A.’s 29 points in the frame. Los Angeles trailed by just two points with 3:31 remaining in the half, but Boston went on a late run to gain some breathing room.
The Celtics turned a series of offensive rebounds into an 8-2 run sparked by Thomas and Crowder 3-pointers that helped give them a 56-47 lead at the half.
Boston continued to jack up 3-pointers at an impressive rate in the second half.
The C’s launched 12 more long balls in the third quarter, connecting on five of them to push their lead back to double digits. Marcus Smart tallied a pair of 3-pointers in the frame, the second of which gave Boston a 16-point lead with 1:10 remaining the quarter.
The Celtics’ defense held steady at the other end, limiting the Clippers to 20 points in the third to take a 14-point lead into the final quarter.
L.A. gave Boston all it could handle in the fourth, trimming the deficit to just four points with under a minute to play.
But Thomas nailed a pair of three throws with 30 seconds remaining, and Griffin missed a 3-pointer on the other end to help the Celtics escape with a victory.
Pierce entered the game one last time on L.A.’s last possession and promptly hit a 3-pointer, sending the TD Garden crowd into a frenzy.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Brown showed no fear while making this circus layup over Griffin in the second half.
While the world tunes into Super Bowl LI, the Celtics will travel for a four-game road trip that begins Wednesday in Sacramento against the Kings. Tip-off at Golden 1 Center is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images