Paul Pierce scored 22 points while Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa added 14 apiece off the bench as the Celtics outlasted the Clippers, 106-104, Sunday afternoon at TD Garden. Pierce's three as the shot clock expired sealed the win with 2.5 seconds left in the game and helped the Celtics avoid the embarrassment of blowing a 19-point halftime lead. The Celtics finished 11-for-18 from 3-point range while Boston's bench outscored LA's reserves, 52-29, with 23 of those 29 coming from Jamal Crawford.
Jason Terry hit a big shot as the shot clock expired late in the fourth quarter as the Celtics won their fourth straight and moved back over .500 at 24-23 on the season. While the Celtics were playing without Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, the Clippers were without star point guard Chris Paul, missing his seventh game in nine outings with a sore right knee.
Both teams came out on fire in the first quarter. The Celtics started off 8-of-13 from the field while the Clippers hit 6-of-9 to start the game. The Celtics overcame four Clippers dunks in the first quarter to take a 33-30 lead after 12 minutes.
The Celtics turned the defensive screws on the Clippers in the second quarter while staying red-hot themselves. The Celtics scored the first six points of the quarter while Los Angeles didn't get on the board until Lamar Odom's turnaround over four minutes into the quarter. The Celtics forced 15 Clippers turnovers in the first half, including nine in the second quarter. The Celtics managed to turn those 15 turnovers into 24 points and race out to a 59-40 halftime lead.
The Celtics had remarkable balance in the first half, with 10 of their 11 players finding the scoring column. Only rookie Fab Melo, who didn't see the floor, failed to score. Green and Terry led a potent attack off the bench with nine points apiece, combining to go 4-for-5 from the three-point range.
The Clippers responded to open the third, scoring the first eight points to cut the lead back to 11, 59-48. But after Blake Griffin picked up his fourth foul midway through the third, the Celtics, thanks to a pair of responded, building the lead back to 19, 74-55. The Celtics closed the third as they did in the second quarter, on a run. Green and Barbosa hit back-to-back threes and Barbosa hit a top-of-the-key jumper as time expired to give the Celtics a 92-77 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Celtics were 10-for-14 from long range through three quarters before going ice cold in the fourth.
With play getting increasingly chippy in the fourth, including a technical on Kevin Garnett for an elbow with Griffin guarding him. Moments later, the Clippers drew to within eight, 98-90, with 8:04 remaining on a Crawford jumper. Bass answered moments later with a dunk. But the Clippers came back with a Griffin dunk and a Crawford layup to cut the lead to six, 100-94, with 5:42 left. Another Crawford layup with 4:55 left cut the lead to 100-96. Crawford hit another layup with 3:17 left and the lead was down to three, 101-98. With a chance to tie, Crawford stepped on the sideline with just over two minutes left.
Terry's fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired put Boston back up five, 103-98, with 1:09 left. But Bledsoe hit a three with 56.2 seconds left to cut the lead to two, 103-101. Avery Bradley drew an offensive foul on Crawford with 26.6 seconds left, wiping out a basket that would've tied the game.
The Celtics are off until Wednesday night, when they play in Toronto against the Raptors. They return home to play Kobe Bryant and the Lakers Thursday night at TD Garden. For more coverage from the Garden from Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
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