Celtics-Clippers review: What we saw . . .


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.

Webber, Massimino among the Hall of Fame finalists


Webber, Massimino among the Hall of Fame finalists

NEW ORLEANS - Chris Webber and Rollie Massimino are one step from the Hall of Fame.

The career 20-point-per-game NBA scorer and the coach who led Villanova to a stunning upset of Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game were among the 14 finalists unveiled Saturday for this year's Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

Webber played 15 seasons with five franchises, plus was part of Michigan's famed "Fab Five" group that headlined college basketball in the early 1990s.

"I don't know what I'm most proud of," said Webber, who averaged 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in his career and was a five-time NBA All-Star. "I'm proud to be in the room with all these great individuals."

Other first-time Hall of Fame finalists include longtime NBA referee Hugh Evans, Connecticut women's star Rebecca Lobo, two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, five-time All-Star Sidney Moncrief, Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, Kansas coach Bill Self, and two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

"I still can't believe I'm here," McGrady said. "This is not even a dream come true."

Previous finalists returning to the ballot include star point guard and Olympic gold medalist Tim Hardaway, winningest all-time boys high school coach Robert Hughes, Notre Dame women's coach Muffet McGraw, former Wisconsin coach and four-time Division III national champion Bo Ryan and 10-time AAU women's national champion team Wayland Baptist University.

"We are grateful to the 14 finalists in the Class of 2017 for the impact they have had on the game we cherish," Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "To be named a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame is an incredible accomplishment."

Inductees will be announced at the Final Four on April 3. Enshrinement ceremonies in Springfield, Massachusetts are scheduled for Sept. 7-9.

Massimino, now an 82-year-old cancer survivor who is still coaching at NAIA school Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Florida, is a finalist for the first time. His Hall of Fame hopes have been backed by plenty of current and former coaches in recent months - including current Villanova coach Jay Wright, who presented Massimino with a championship ring from the Wildcats' 2016 NCAA title.

"Some days, we do take him for granted," Keiser guard Andrija Sarenac said. "But then you see him on TV so much, you see all these videos made about him, the movies about Villanova and everything, and it just hits you. You realize that he's a legend. I mean, your coach is a walking legend. With the energy and everything he comes in with, it's inspiring."

Finalists need 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee to be enshrined. Among this year's candidates who did not make the finalist group: Muggsy Bogues, Ben Wallace, Kevin Johnson, Maurice Cheeks, Mark Price, Lefty Driesell and Eddie Sutton.

Former New York Times sports writer Harvey Araton and former Turner Sports broadcaster Craig Sager will be recognized during Hall of Fame weekend as this year's Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients.

"A tremendous honor," said Sager's wife Stacy.

This year's lifetime achievement award recipients are former UConn coach Donald "Dee" Rowe and Michael Goldberg, who spent nearly four decades as executive director of the NBA Coaches Association. Goldberg died earlier this year.

"He bridged the gap between ownership and coaches," said New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry, who spoke about Goldberg on Saturday while wearing a bow tie - one of the signature wardrobe accessories that Goldberg donned for years. "He was just such a great guy."

Dombrowski: There's a lot of talent on this Red Sox team

Dombrowski: There's a lot of talent on this Red Sox team

Trenni Kusnierek talks with Dave Dombrowski about the Red Sox clubhouse and their expectations for the 2017 season.