Rondo Guides C's to Win over Clippers
With the starters, for the most part, sitting calmly on the bench, the Celtics' reserves did most of the dirty work during the final 12 minutes last night.
Despite entering the fourth quarter up just 3 points, Boston, behind its bench, notched a 111-100 victory over the struggling Los Angeles Clippers at TD Banknorth Garden. The Celtics received a career-high 24 points to go with 8 assists and 5 rebounds from starting point guard Rajon Rondo, and 44 points from the reserves.
The Celtics improved to 21-4 at home. Boston is now 3-2 without the injured Kevin Garnett. Clippers forward Corey Maggette scored a game-high 33 points.
Garnett missed his fifth straight game with an abdominal strain, and Paul Pierce was battling flu-like symptoms, which had affected several Celtics.
But the Celtics' injuries were laughable compared with those of the Clippers.
Forward Elton Brand (left Achilles' tendon), forward Paul Davis (right knee surgery), and guard Shaun Livingston (dislocated left knee) are out indefinitely. Forward Tim Thomas is out with back spasms. Coach Mike Dunleavy missed Monday's game at New York with flu-like symptoms.
The Clippers entered the game with twice as many losses as wins. The Los Angeles media has tuned them out - neither the Los Angeles Times nor the Orange County Register is traveling with them.
Despite the struggles and lack of attention, the Clippers showed the Celtics quickly that they came ready to play.
Pierce scored the game's first 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting. The Clippers responded with a 24-13 run to take a 24-22 lead on a Maggette 3-pointer. LA had a 29-25 lead at the end of the first quarter after a 31-foot buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Quinton Ross.
The Celtics went on a 9-0 run to take a 44-35 lead on a Rondo lay-in with 4:50 left in the second quarter.
At shootaround, Cassell said he hopes to get a buyout that would allow him to sign with Boston and he would have no problems playing behind Rondo. In the second quarter, one could have wondered if he was trying to become Boston's starter.
With 3:05 left, Cassell was assessed a flagrant-2 foul and thus ejected for slapping Rondo hard on the head during a lay-in attempt. Rondo, who already had gauze in his left nostril, made 1 of 2 free throws to give Boston a 49-40 lead. Cassell left the game with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds in 16 minutes.
Tony Allen made a lay-in with 2.7 seconds left to give the Celtics a 59-48 halftime lead. They outscored the Clippers, 34-19, in the second, shooting 52 percent from the field while the visitors shot 26.3 percent.
Rondo had 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting, 5 assists, and 4 steals in 16 minutes in the half. Pierce had 13 points, while the Celtics shot 51.1 percent. Maggette had 22 points, including 7-of-7 free throw shooting.
Maggette reached 29 points with a 3-pointer with 4:06 left in the third quarter that trimmed the Clippers' deficit to 75-69. A Cuttino Mobley 3-pointer sliced Boston's lead to 82-79 with 53.4 seconds left in the third. LA finished the quarter with a 12-6 run to trim Boston's lead to 84-81.
Maggette reached 29 points with a 3-pointer with 4:06 left in the third quarter to trim the Clippers' deficit to 75-69. A Cuttino Mobley 3-pointer sliced Boston's lead to 82-79 with 53.4 seconds left in the third. Los Angeles finished the third with a 12-6 run to trim Boston's lead to 84-81.
The Celtics opened the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 90-81 lead on an Eddie House 3-pointer. A 3-pointer by Tony Allen gave Boston a 99-89 lead with 6:55 left. With 6:34 remaining, Tony Allen dunked to give Boston a 101-91 lead and then gave the ball to Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, who was sitting behind the baseline.
A jumper by Chris Kaman sliced the lead to 104-96 with 2:20 remaining, but House nailed a 3-pointer with 1:27 remaining to give Boston a 107-96 lead. A Maggette fast-break dunk brought the Clippers within 106-100 with 55.8 seconds left. But Rondo hit three free throws in the final minute.