Celtics-Clippers review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Clippers review: What we saw . . .

LOS ANGELES The game got ugly, with defensive stops, bodies flying all over the floor and technical fouls being handed out to many - even Greg Stiemsma.

And the Boston Celtics?

They loved every minute of it.

The C's took the Clippers out of their above-the-rim game, and made it into a grind-it-out affair which clearly favored the Celtics.

With that said, it should come as no surprise that the Celtics came away with a 94-85 win.

Although the C's closed out the game with a 20-7 run, it was their defense - much more physical than we've seen in a while - that was the difference.

"Once we settled into the game, we were more physical, we pushed back, we got up in them, got in their space and made it uncomfortable for them," said Paul Pierce, who had a game-high 25 points. "This is a team that wants to be left alone; they play with a lot of finesse, high-flying team, get out in transition, lobs, all that type of stuff."

Even the usually mild-mannered Greg Stiemsma showed some physical play, with him and Clippers all-star Blake Griffin having a few run-ins, one of which resulted in both players being whistled for a technical.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Monday's game saw the "mean Stiemsma."

"You have to have flashes of it," said Stiemsma, who had two points, two rebounds and two blocked shots in 22 minutes. "You can't play mad all the time, but I'm not going to back down from anybody, either. I don't care what position or situation they're in. So if I can come in and play physical, take a shot to the mouth, a couple shots to the head, if it'll help us win I'll do it."

Boston making the game into being one that was more physical than finesses certainly worked. Let's review other factors discussed earlier, and see how they actually played out as the Celtics (22-19) rally for a much-needed win over a Clippers (23-17) squad that has now lost four of their last five games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics would love to win going away tonight, but close games seem to give the Clippers problems lately which may be as clear a sign as any that they miss Chauncey Billups who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon on Feb. 6. For the season, the Clippers are 7-7 in games decided by five points or less. Since Billups' injury, the Clippers are 2-6 in such games.
WHAT WE SAW: This was yet another game that shines a bright spotlight on how much the Clippers miss Billups. Their inability to execute in the closing moments of tight games, is exactly what Billups does best. But give the Celtics credit. Defensively down the stretch, they were impressive. And if you have Pierce getting it going offensively in the fourth the way he had it tonight, the C's are an extremely tough team to beat.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Chris Paul: Even before Danny Ainge tried to swap Rondo out for Paul, there wasn't a whole lot of love between these two all-stars. Rondo has the reputation - a well earned one, mind you - for stepping his game up in big, national TV-type games. But this is one of those games where the chip Rondo usually plays with, will be even bigger than usual. Why? Because he knows that Paul is a guy that the Celtics wanted, and they had no problem giving him away to do so. Get your popcorn ready, folks. This should be a good one, for sure.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo had every reason to try and go out and prove a point, that he is better than Chris Paul. Instead of making it personal, Rondo made it a point to keep doing what he has always done a better at than Paul - winning games. C's coach Doc Rivers was not surprised at how Rondo approach the game. ""He approached it just like we thought he would," said C's coach Doc Rivers of Rondo. "He was more concerned about winning the game." When asked if there was any added fuel for tonight's game with all the Chris Paul trade rumors this summer, Rondo said, "No. I just wanted to get a win."

PLAYER TO WATCH: All of the Celtics played more minutes than usual against the Lakers, but Kevin Garnett is the one that the Celtics really need to be concerned about. You have to wonder just how much did banging with Andrew Bynum take out of KG, and whether he'll have much to offer up defensively tonight against DeAndre Jordan who doesn't have Bynum's strength, but he's no pushover, either.

WHAT WE SAW: So much for getting Garnett's minutes under control. The plan going in was to get him closer to 30 minutes played. In actuality, Garnett played about a minute less than he did on Sunday against the Lakers. Garnett had yet another strong game, scoring 21 points to go with eight rebounds in just over 34 minutes. Among his points was a 21-foot turnaround jumper with 38.4 seconds to play that essentially sealed the win.

"We went to the OG's man," said Brandon Bass, referring to the Big Four who all came up with big plays down the stretch for the Celtics. "The OG's carried us. We was on their back tonight."

STAT TO TRACK: This is one of those nights when the Celtics' best defense might be to simply foul the Clippers and send them to the free throw line. For the season, the Clippers are shooting just 69.1 percent from the free throw line which ranks 29th in the NBA. A big part of the Clippers' free throw woes is Blake Griffin, a 54.9 percent free throw shooter. He averages 7.5 free throw attempts per game which ranks sixth in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston actually committed fewer fouls (24) than the Clippers (26), but a lot of that had to do with the Clippers intentionally fouling in the game's closing seconds in hopes of getting the ball back. And the idea of putting the Clippers on the line didn't work out quite as well as Boston would have liked. The Clippers had 21 free throw attempts and connected on 18, for an 85.7 percent free throw percentage. And Blake Griffin, a horrific free throw shooter, was a respectable 6-for-8 from the line.

Curran: McDaniels staying with Pats shouldn't be a shocker

Curran: McDaniels staying with Pats shouldn't be a shocker

For weeks the speculation regarding Josh McDaniels wasn't a matter of "if" but "when."

But while national media had McDaniels signed, sealed and delivered to multiple landing spots, the proposition that he'd leave at all was never a likelihood. 

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The Rams weren't attractive to him from the outset. Jacksonville didn't excite him, either. And on Monday, he passed on the 49ers opportunity. 

The lure of a blank slate in San Fran at quarterback and GM didn't outpace the uncertainty of going cross-country to work for a seemingly dysfunctional franchise that's cycled rapidly through coaches and has an unrealistic sense that it's a long, long way removed from its glory days, the only remnant remaining from that being perhaps the logo on the helmet. 

With four kids and a job McDaniels considers one of the 10 best on coaching -- head man or no -- he will stay on as the Patriots' offensive coordinator.

"I was really impressed with (Niners owner) Jed York and (team executive) Paraag Marathe . . . and the people that came from the 49ers organization," McDaniels said on a conference call this morning. "They did a great job with their presentation. Humbled to be included in that process. At this time it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

The same faulty speculative reasoning that had McDaniels as good as gone from the Patriots will move on undeterred today and surmise that McDaniels is staying with the Patriots because he knows, or has been promised, that he'll receive the head coaching job when Bill Belichick steps aside. 

While the Kraft family certainly thinks highly of McDaniels and that could come to pass, anyone tapping their foot and checking their watch waiting for Belichick to step down is in for a long wait. He's showing no signs of wrapping it up and, while I haven't been told directly McDaniels isn't the automatic successor, he wouldn't be taking interviews at all if he were assured that. 

What will be interesting to see is whether interest remains high in him for other jobs or the perception that he's never going to leave means teams don't bother to ask. San Fran obviously had its heart set on McDaniels. Even though Nick Caserio passed on the chance to interview with the Niners for their open GM job, the team did talk to Louis Riddick about the spot. He and McDaniels have high regard for each other. 

Between McDaniels, Caserio and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the people closest to Belichick on the coaching flow chart all had chances to go somewhere else and all passed on the chance. It's another example of not why the Patriots are good but why they remain good. Stability. 
 

Monday, Jan. 15: Matthews jersey sells for big money

Monday, Jan. 15: Matthews jersey sells for big money

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wondering what Claude Julien would do if one of the Bruins players was running Facebook Live during his postgame comments.
 
*Auston Matthews is obviously making a huge impression in Toronto as his Centennial Classic jersey sold for over $11,000 at a charity auction.
 
*Clark Booth knows it’s time to talk about the NFL, but instead he wants to talk about Milt Schmidt. I agree with Clark.

*Sabres goalie Robin Lehner says that his Buffalo teammates need to start doing their job as the season circles down the drain.

*Pierre McGuire talks with TSN sports radio about the Ottawa Senators, and the tough road trip coming up for them.
 
*PHT writer Cam Tucker has more bad news for the Tampa Bay Lightning as Ryan Callahan is going to be out for another four weeks with a lower body injury.
 
*As the Detroit Red Wings continue to round up the bottom in the Atlantic Division, Thomas Vanek may become trade bait.
 
*Peter Budaj is giving the Kings the saves that they need with Jonathan Quick out long term with injury.
 
*For something completely different: Tom E. Curran points out some togetherness issues with the Pittsburgh Steelers based on Antonio Brown’s Facebook post.