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Boston had to hold off a late surge, but they successfully defeated the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday to win their fourth in a row, all without Rajon Rondo. Boston led by as many as 19 points, but allowed the Clippers hope before putting them away for good in a 106-104 victory.
Things started off quickly, with both teams combining to hit the game’s first seven field goal attempts. Los Angeles struck early and often, but could only push their lead to five points at most. Boston just kept hitting shots right along with Los Angeles before taking their first lead of the game, 25-23, on a three from Jason Terry. Still, Boston couldn’t open things up in the first quarter either, opening up a five-point lead of their own before both teams finally cooled off slightly in the last minute. Courtney Lee nearly hit a half-court three at the buzzer, but still should have gotten the points due to goaltending. A Clippers defender at the basket leaped up towards the ball and clearly put his arm right through the net, but the referees were in no hurry whatsoever to make the call.
The second quarter, however, clearly belonged to the Celtics. They limited Los Angeles to just 10 points in the frame (four field goals and two free throws) while scoring 26 themselves to take a 59-40 lead at the half. In such a one-sided quarter, the highlight was a foul committed by Ronny Turiaf on Leandro Barbosa with 8:20 remaining in the half. Barbosa was going for the shot when Turiaf essentially attacked him with a clothesline/elbow move, which the officiating crew went to review. Surprisingly, the officials did not call it a flagrant foul, deeming it an ordinary shooting foul instead.
The third quarter picked up where the first left off, with both sides scoring seemingly at will. A quarter which saw the Celtics start leading 59-40 ended with them up 92-77, with Los Angeles taking the frame 37-33.
The fourth quarter started off with a bang in its own right, but not in a good way. Matt Barnes, who has had recent problems with flagrant fouls, committed another one against Kevin Garnett after getting excessively rough with Boston’s big man 49 seconds into the final quarter. However, the officials surprisingly overturned that flagrant foul as well, instead calling it a regular foul. But the action didn’t stop there, as Garnett got tangled up with Blake Griffin, with both players grabbing at each other’s jerseys. Griffin got off scot-free, but Garnett was given a technical with 9:39 remaining.
Aside from the extra-curricular activities, the final quarter was a reverse of the second, with Boston suddenly getting sloppy and struggling for points. Los Angeles really took advantage of turnovers, even holding Boston without a field goal for 6:33 during one stretch. The Clippers were able to use that rough patch to cut Boston’s lead to 103-101 with 56.2 seconds remaining, but then turned the ball back over via an offensive ball after Boston missed. Despite being down with just 26.6 seconds left, the Clippers didn’t foul to save time on the clock. Instead, Boston was able to milk the clock all the way down, with Paul Pierce hitting a huge three to go up 106-101 with 2.5 seconds left and sealing the win for Boston.
Jamal Crawford then hit a meaningless three for Los Angeles at the buzzer, but unfortunately for the Clippers, the only good that did was for fantasy owners.
“Who did it? The Butler did it.” – Tommy Heinsohn on Caron Butler’s strong first quarter