Celtics beat Clippers with big second half, 99-92

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Celtics beat Clippers with big second half, 99-92

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES There may be a couple of new faces to the Boston Celtics roster, but this team's identity remains the same.

No matter how many All-Stars and future Hall of Famers Boston trots out to the floor, this team's defensive DNA is alive and well.

We saw that in the second of Boston's 99-92 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

After spending most of the first half trailing, the C's (42-15) opened the third quarter with a 12-4 run capped off by a 20-foot jumper from one of the new guys - Nenad Krstic - that gave the Celtics a 52-51 lead, a lead the C's refused to relinquish.

"It was a great first day," said Paul Pierce.

Especially when you consider how down in the dumps the C's were just a couple nights ago following the unexpected trade that netted Jeff Green and Krstic from Oklahoma City, but also shipped out Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson.

In separate trades, Boston also sent Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to Cleveland, and Marquis Daniels to the Sacramento Kings.

With a third of the team traded away on Thursday, there was a sense that those moves were at work in explaining Boston's slow start on Saturday night against the Clippers.

That's not how coach Doc Rivers saw things.

"The Clippers played harder in the first half," Rivers said. "They got to all the loose balls and they created turnovers. They just played with more zip and more energy."

We have seen the C's do that from time to time this season, even when they were intact.

But for veterans such as Pierce, he admitted that the "shockwaves" experienced on Thursday were still being felt in the hours that followed.

"When the trade happened, we're suffering from the shockwaves," Pierce said. "We picked everything up; put the pieces back together, and hopefully we can get it going."

The Celtics certainly did in the second half on Saturday, primarily because they relied on what Boston does better than most teams - defend.

The C's renewed focus on defense saw a quick turnaround that proved to be more than enough to put away the Clippers, who were led by a game-high 32 points from Randy Foye along with 21 points and 11 rebounds from Blake Griffin.

Griffin was among the Clippers to recognize the Celtics brought a different level of basketball, especially on the defensive end of the floor, in the third quarter.

"They picked up their intensity," Griffin said. "They got to take advantage of some turnovers and they made shots."

More than anything else, it was a Celtics team that essentially made up its mind to not just play better, but to take over and dominate.

"You could see us getting into the game," Rivers said. "Our defense turned up, we got stops and we ran. With the bigs we have, we can run now."

And that running allows the Celtics to attack the paint, which on Saturday meant getting to the free throw line a season-high 41 times.

But Saturday's game wasn't about getting to the line, or necessarily getting used to the new guys.

It was about the Boston Celtics sticking to doing what they do best, and that's defend at a high level.

And that will not change, regardless of who is and isn't playing for the Celtics.

"We still have to keep our eyes on the prize," Pierce said. "It's to win a championship. We can't lose our focus from that."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

After Boston’s last game against Portland – a loss – Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he was encouraged by some of the things his team did defensively.

It’s safe to say Stevens won’t be singing that tone if the Celtics continue along the path they’re on defensively right now as the Washington Wizards went into the half with a 66-59 lead.

Washington, donning all-black clothes when they arrived at the Verizon Center, were very much looking as though they were digging a basketball grave for the Boston Celtics who allowed the Wizards to shoot a ridiculous 65 percent from the field in the first half and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from 3-point range.

The Wizards scored the first four points of the game and spent all of the first half playing with a lead.

But the Celtics showed some fight late in the second quarter, going on a 14-6 run to cut Washington’s lead to 55-52 with 3:39 to play in the quarter.

Boston would later have a chance to tie the game, but Marcus Smart’s 3-pointer was off the mark.

And the Wizards, as they had done all game, made the Celtics pay as Bradley Beal drained a jumper that made it a two-possession game.

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Bradley Beal

It was his idea to go with the all-Black look, and he backed up his talk with a strong first half of play. He has a team-high 14 points at the half along with five assists.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas delivered yet another all-star caliber scoring performance in the first half for Boston. He led all scorers with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting along with a game-high eight assists.  

John Wall

After scoring just nine points when these two met on Jan. 11, Wall has 13 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

It was an extremely efficient game offensively in the first half for Horford. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists.

Markieff Morris

He’s one of four double-digit scorers in the first half for the Wizards. In addition to his 10 points, he also has five rebounds and three assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

At this end of the floor, the Celtics were absolutely atrocious in the first half. The Wizards shot a ridiculously high 65 percent from the field, and were just as lethal (8-for-13, 61.5 percent) from 3-point land. They have no shot at competing let alone winning tonight’s game, if they don’t turn things around and do so soon!

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Just about every part of Isaiah Thomas’ game offensively has seen tremendous growth this season.

But what has really separated him from earlier versions of himself, has been his 3-point shooting.

He comes into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards shooting a career best 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

When asked about how he has elevated his game this season, the answer isn’t that simple.

“I don’t know” he told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “The game is slowing down for me. My teammates put me in position, my coach does … and I’m just knocking down shots.”

Because of his shot-making, Thomas has made it difficult for defenses to give him a steady diet of any style of play in trying to limit him.

And because they have to change things up with regularity, that has created more scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes they forget what they want to do (defensively) and leave me open for a three,” Thomas said. “Those are the the types of shots I need to knock down and I’m being aggressive.

He added, “I need to get to the free throw line, trying to make plays for my teammates. It’s one of those things where I’m in a really good zone now; a really good rhythm.”

A good rhythm?

According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, Thomas is the first Celtic ever to make at least four 3-pointers in five straight games. Taking it a step further, he has made at least three 3-pointers in seven straight games which equaled Antoine Walker’s streak in 2001.

Thomas has also attempted 11 three-pointers in five straight games which is a franchise record. There have only been three longer streaks in NBA history - Golden State’s Stephen Curry (7 straight games, 2016); Washington’s Gilbert Arenas (7 straight games, 2005) and Dallas’ George McCloud (6 straight games, 2006).

He’s also averaging 3.1 made 3’s per game which would be a franchise record that’s currently held by Antoine Walker who averaged 2.7 during the 2001-2002 season.

And all those 3’s have added up to Thomas scoring at least 27 points in seven straight games, something that hasn’t been done by a Celtic since Larry Bird had eight such games in March 1988 as well as the 1987-1988 season.