Celtics beat Clippers with big second half, 99-92

191544.jpg

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

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.