Celtics fans thanked Doc Rivers with a standing ovation during a video tribute after the first quarter, and how did he repay his former organization? Guiding his Clippers to a 96-88 victory in his first game since leaving Boston.
Jeff Green (29 points), Brandon Bass (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Jordan Crawford (20 points, 9 assists) all had themselves a game against their former coach, but it wasn’t enough to help the Celtics avoid a second straight loss.
Not the greatest reunion week for the C’s, who drop to 10-14 and watch their Atlantic Division lead dwindle to a game over the idle Raptors.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The usuals: While the Celtics played stout defense, Clippers stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin got theirs, combining for 40 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists on the night. Meanwhile, the C’s held their remaining three starters — Willie Green, Jared Dudley and DeAndre Jordan — to 22 points, 13 boards and two dimes. The strategy that probably wasn’t a strategy at all nearly worked.
Jump shoot: While Avery Bradley‘s jump shot has vastly improved since last season, Wednesday wasn’t his night. He didn’t connect on his first jumper until midway through the fourth quarter, although he did throw down this impressive one-handed alley-oop from Crawford early. His first connection from long distance, though, did give the Celtics a lead back after Los Angeles started the second half on a 15-4 run.
Benched: For the second straight night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens got little contribution from his second unit. With Kris Humphries nursing a bruised right knee and rookie Kelly Olynyk (ankle) missing his ninth straight game, Vitor Faverani was the lone big off the bench, and he put up zeroes again. The C’s reserves didn’t score their first points until Gerald Wallace‘s layup with 1:54 remaining in the third gave the C’s a 63-60 lead. And somehow Courtney Lee fouled out with all of zero points in the 15 minutes of action.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Steez: The legend of Crawford continues to grow with each passing game. Facing Paul, the best floor general in the business, Crawford held his own in the first half. The Celtics point guard entered the break with nine points, five assists and just one turnover — respectable numbers opposite Paul’s 15 points, three assists and two turnovers. Meanwhile, the C’s assisted on 12 of their 18 first-half field goals to take a 45-39 lead.
Motivation: Two of the Celtics most scorned by Doc’s departure, Green and Bass, came to play against their former coach. When Rivers left, admitting an unwillingness to go through another rebuilding process, that had to sting for the players left on the roster. Bass tallied his second double-double of the season in as many nights, and Green netted 20 points for the first time this month, including this monster dunk.
Defense: Through three quarters, the Celtics held the Clippers to 66 points on 43.1 percent shooting (40.9% in the first and 40.0% in the second), staying within two when the C’s themselves were shooting just 39.1 percent from the field. Los Angeles came into the game shooting 46.5 percent on the season and scoring 105.1 points per 100 possessions, both top-five marks in the league. Unfortunately, the aggressive defense led to 17 personal fouls and 34 free throws for L.A. (as opposed to 19 free throws for the C’s).