I know two things to be true about the 2013 Celtics. The first: If something is too good to be true (ie. a first half offensive explosion and lockdown defense), it likely is. The second: No lead is safe, specifically no lead under 20.
Boston tried VERY hard to lose the game in the fourth quarter this afternoon, blowing all but two points of a 19-point second half lead. The Clippers came storming back by playing excellent defense and driving hard to the basket, especially Eric Bledsoe who scored 23 points on 9-15 shooting. But the Celtics, after being suffocated defensively for much of the fourth quarter, were able to get two clutch baskets from Jason Terry and Paul Pierce in the final minute to come away with the win.
Some bullet points:
- Paul Pierce’s last shot, an isolation step-back three pointer over Matt Barnes, would have drawn heavy criticism if he had missed it. But in that particular scenario, it was the right decision to isolate and run the clock down as far as possible. Once Pierce got the ball, he was clearly waiting for Barnes to foul him, as any sane coach (read: Most coaches not named Vinny Del Negro) would have instructed his players to do in that situation. Even if the Clippers had stopped the Celtics without fouling, they would have had less than two seconds (once they rebounded the ball and called timeout) to make a play on the other end. So Pierce waited for the foul and correctly ran the clock down as far as the Clippers would allow him to. He just happened to stick a 3-point dagger into LA’s heart at the end of the play.
- The Celtics were 11-18 from 3-point range for 61.1%. When Pierce, Jeff Green and Jason Terry combine for 9-13 shooting from behind the arc, the Celtics are likely to come away with the win. Green, for his part, hit the corner 3-pointers Boston desperately needs him to make. Jason Terry hit the dictionary definition of a “NO NO YES!” trey, pulling up on a 2-on-1 fast break and connecting from downtown. And Pierce, of course, was clutch and comfortable for most of the afternoon.
- The Clippers turned the ball over ad nauseum in the first half, allowing the Celtics to run out to a big lead. But the final turnover tally, 21-17, spoke to Boston’s sloppy fourth quarter execution. As Tommy Heinsohn pointed out on the telecast, the Celtics started running the high pick-and-rolls they enjoy so much, and the Clippers simply double-teamed the ball handler, making passes difficult. Without a real point guard to break through the double team, the Celtics turned the ball over, stalled late in the shot clock, and allowed the Clippers back into the game. It was almost like the Celtics were badly missing their primary ball-handler or something.
- Jamal Crawford, incidentally, banked in a three near the end of the third quarter. I almost lost a tonsil screaming at my computer screen.
- In four minutes, Chris Wilcox scored four points diving to the basket off pick-and-rolls, which is something most Boston bigs don’t usually do, preferring to pick-and-pop. He also played a passing lane perfectly and picked off a pass. He still struggles badly on defensive rotations, but it’s difficult to understand how Collins continues to get more minutes.
- KG exiting his postgame press conference, per CLNS’s Jared Weiss: “NINERS GONNA WIN, MOTHAF***A!” I mean…he’s just the best.
That should do it for us. Exciting finish aside, this was a good win for the Celtics who once again move above .500.
Enjoy the Super Bowl, everybody.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.