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The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers met up Monday night at the TD Garden. When last they met, Baron Davis stunned the Celtics by hitting a last-second shot to give the Clippers the victory. Heading into this game, Boston had lost three of four games, whereas Los Angeles had won three of four.
The first half was marked by poor shooting by both sides, but the Celtics turned it on in the second half, erased a nine-point deficit, and won, 95-89.
Monday night saw the return of the balanced attack that has been the Celtics bread and butter all season. Four starters scored in double figures. Paul Pierce led all scorers with 22 points, while Rajon Rondo was his usual self, putting up yet another double-double with 16 points and 12 assists.
The only starter not to score in double digits Monday night was Kendrick Perkins. He did however contribute heavily to the defense, putting up 15 rebounds to go along with his 9 points and 2 blocks. While they lost the rebounds battle (this is becoming a major concern for this Celtics team), they once again won the assists battle, putting up 21 to the Clippers’ 18.
Overall, the Celtics first half offense was poor but it turned itself around in the second half. The team began playing with more poise and more energy, and their passing became much crisper. They minimized turnovers, found open looks, and started putting the ball in the basket. This allowed them to control the pace through most of the second half.
The Celtics bench, while not contributing much to the offense, did a spectacular job on defense, particularly in the fourth quarter. The starters did well too, although their defense seemed to decline a little bit as their offense picked up. They allowed too many easy layups for Boston College’s own Craig Smith. They didn’t crash the boards defensively as well as they could have (they gave up five offensive rebounds). And they didn’t protect against the three-point shot very well (they gave five treys while just scoring four, however several of the Clippers’ three-pointers came in the last two minutes of the game, when they were desperate to make up the score).
The defense is still finding itself with the return of Kevin Garnett, learning how to protect the outside because they know they have KG and Perk to help out inside. In any event, the defensive star of the game was Rondo, who did a great job on Baron Davis and stole the ball four times, contributing to the 16 fast break points Boston put up.
After the Celtics’ overtime win against Portland, it was important for this team not to backslide into the inconsistency that plagued them during Garnett’s absence. Tonight they succeeded in avoiding that. This is certainly a team that still needs development. The Celtics have not been completely healthy in quite some time, and this has affected everything from defense to team chemistry. With the slow return of players to the active list, we should see this team continue to grow and flourish.
Their next three games are against Orlando, Atlanta and Los Angeles (the Lakers this time). This will most definitely put this newly reformed squad to the test. Hopefully they can continue to build momentum and roll through these upcoming teams as well as they did against their last two.