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Celtics suck the fun out of Clippers style, earn the win

Mar 13, 2012, 2:54 AM EST

Boston Celtics Avery Bradley slam dunks over the Los Angeles Clippers during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Reuters

Teams have to learn how to win at the NBA level. How to play to their strengths, how to recognize the mismatch and exploit it, how to go to the counter when the first option is taken away.

Boston knows how to do that — their depleted roster and aging bodies may not let them execute it like they did a few years ago, but they know how.

The Clippers have no idea yet. They will some day but right now they are learning some hard lessons (and you can go ahead and wonder if coach Vinny Del Negro is the guy to lead them past it).

That difference is what it came down to Monday night at Staples Center — the Celtics stayed close by turning it into their kind of game. Meaning chippy and slow. Then when the game was close in the final four minutes they executed and the Clippers didn’t. The result was a 94-85 win the Celtics needed.

“This is lob city and they enjoy the game. You can see when they play they have a lot of fun and we just had to make this game no fun,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Boston knew exactly how to suck the fun out of the Clippers — at the top of the white board in the Celtics locker room before the game were the two top defensive priorities: no lobs, no threes in transition.

Boston executed that for the most part, they slowed the pace and turned it into their kind of ugly, physical game. There were five technical fouls, guys sprawling on the floor all night and a lot of hard fouls. It felt more like a playoff game.

“This is our kind of game,” Paul Pierce said afterwards.

While both teams had leads at various points this was a tied game, 78-78 with 3:25 left. That is when Boston really showed their experience while the Clippers showed why they have struggled late in games and lost a number of them lately.

Both teams had gone small — Boston by necessity, the Clippers by choice — and that meant the Clippers were playing Bobby Simmons at the four. Bobby “I’m here on a 10-day contract” Simmons. Boston went right at him — Simmons was supposed to guard Pierce but Pierce drew a foul on one possession then got free for a three at the top of the key when the Clippers defense collapsed on a Rajon Rondo drive on the next possession. Then the Celtics ran a pick to force a switch of Simmons on to Kevin Garnett (the Clippers switched everything late). Garnett hit a key fade-away three over Simmons. Garnett finished with 21 points and Pierce 25.

The Clippers could not get a key late stop and the lineup on the floor was one Boston could exploit.

“We talked about putting some more size out there but I felt those guys were in the rhythm of the game…” Vinny Del Negro said after the loss. “I just felt those guys had a feel for what Paul (Pierce) and Kevin (Garnett) were going to do.”

Late in the game in particular but through the game overall the Celtics and Rondo did a good job taking away Chris Paul’s penetration. Do that and the Clippers struggle to counter well in the half court. Boston knows its counter moves — they have years of experience together in the same system. Boston has that it, Los Angeles is still learning.

And learning the hard way.

  1. palakerfan - Mar 13, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Thank you Celtics!

    Side note: I don’t see any scenario where LA turned down a Gasol for Rondo trade offer. No way. That’s a bogus report. 5 years younger, 7 mil cheaper, great defensive PG, great passing PG. His only weakness is his shot, and that’s something they should be able to fix. Rondo’s a little goofy but I’d take him in a minute.

    • Kurt Helin - Mar 13, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      Teams don’t trade big for small. And I can assure you both sides don’t like this trade idea.

    • homelanddefense - Mar 13, 2012 at 1:35 PM

      If Rondo’s shooting could be fixed you would think Boston would have done it by now

      • Kansachusetts - Mar 13, 2012 at 6:32 PM

        I could be wrong, but I think his shot is getting better. Even his foul shooting was on last night.

  2. laughsatyou - Mar 13, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    Blake Griffin is becoming very hard to like. At one point in the game he scored and got fouled took the ball and put it in Greg Stiemsma’s chest. Greg freaking Stiemsma . Im far from a Boston fan but i was hoping the Clippers would lose after that . Blake really has been annoying this year , from his stare down to refs and constant complaining to his Kia commercials.

    I do have to say he is a freak of nature and is the only guy I paid to watch last year . Griffin live at a seat close to the court is really impressive . This year has really soured me on him and I just find myself really hating the way he acts . If you want the enforcer or tough guy look go after somebody like Garnett not Greg freaking Stiemsma. Thats just a punk move. Label me a hater or whatever cause i am starting to hate him,

    • homelanddefense - Mar 13, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      Ive always felt that way about him. He always has that ridiculous hard look on his face, which gets worse after dunks. And he is always messing with his freaking mouth pc.

      • Vivek - Mar 13, 2012 at 2:07 PM

        ditto. he thinks he is privileged. glad i am not the only one who observed that frozen / hard look after every dunk.

      • Kansachusetts - Mar 13, 2012 at 6:37 PM

        Griffin was definitely acting like a punk last night. What surprised me was that Brandon Bass was able to guard him so well, and that the Celtics took him out of his game. Sure he got a handful of Incredible Hulk dunks, but he didn’t break out. And he looked absolutely awkward trying to deal with their defense when he couldn’t easily get to the hoop. Like Dwight, he’s still missing some key offensive skills that he needs against good defensive teams, and the skills he does have are so immense that he hasn’t needed to make up the difference – yet.
        Also, being a western team, the Clippers don’t see as many teams that play real difference. At the end of the night, Moe Williams told the L.A. Times that what makes the Celtics hard to score against is that they contest every shot. Well, duh!

      • Kansachusetts - Mar 13, 2012 at 6:38 PM

        By “real difference” I meant “real defense”

    • Vivek - Mar 13, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      funny nba.com and other celebrated griffins dunk over perk for weeks but barely noticed gerald green’s tomahawk on sunday. shows disparity in nba.com reporting.

  3. max20characters - Mar 13, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    When the Warriors beat the Clippers, no one cares.

  4. atom665 - Mar 13, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    It’s still the Clippers. Still no one cares.

  5. losangelasbasketball - Mar 13, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    del negro started coaching in chicago in 2008(d rose’s rookie season),

    he was cut after 2 years because chicago was going to try to make a run at some titles

    with d rose and del negro sucked. Now the clippers are making a run at it…. the only

    logical thing to do is cut del negro like chicago did… but why wait 2 years? Y not do it

    before the trade deadline….

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