Phew.  That would’ve been fairly embarrassing if we lost, now that the Clippers are relevant again (and attempting to remain relevant)… although the lead was only 47-42 after the first half, it felt very much like we were in control .  How ‘bout that Elton Brand!  Felt like we were toying with this team…

Isolating the first 5:30 of the 3rd quarter – where the Celtics “stormed” back to erase the half-time deficit and take a 1-point lead - seems like a good place for a breakdown:

  • 11:40 – Clips show some nice patience on offense, working the ball around the perimeter, find Kaman on the far block, makes a nice hook shot – 49-42
  • 11:24 – Rondo has the ball up top, looks for Jefferson, Kaman gets caught hung up on a switch, leaving Maggette to contend with Jefferson, who converts an easy 5- footer (ominous foreshadowing) – 49-44
  • 10:50 – TT nails a 3 – we’re up by 8 points now, 52-44
  • 10:40 – Jefferson, squatting on the block, gets a nice moving entry pass from Scalabrine, Kaman is out of position, TT runs over to help and fouls.  Jefferson converts FTs  - 52-46
  • 8:22 – teams’ve been trading baskets – after Clipper make, Rondo runs the ball down before Clips have time to set up their D, finds a wide open Gomes who drains a 15-footer from the wing – 56-50
  • 7:50 – after a missed Brand jumper (tough shot attempt over Jefferson), Clipper illegal D – cuts it to 5 – on the possession, Delonte dribbles around the perimeter to find Gomes, who hits from the same spot as before (TT’s blown assignment) – 56-53 (it’s a ball game!)
  • 7:20 – Sam misses a wide open-3 at the top of the key
  • 7:10 – Delonte finds Jefferson at the top of the key, who makes a quick pivot and softly drops a hook shot over Kaman – 56-55
  • 6:55 – Mobley has the ball on the wing, backs Delonte down, gets hung up, passes out to Sam but gets intercepted by Rondo
  • 6:30 – the “Jefferson abusing Kaman” show continues, as Rondo drops the ball to Jefferson on the block, who drives around Kaman for a nice baseline shot – 56-57, and Celtics have their first lead of the game – Clipper time out

It’s telling, once the Celts took a lead, the next possession out of this time out - quick entry to Brand, who drains it.  Why did we get away from this?  The 3rd quarter ended with the Celts up by 2, as we essentially traded baskets for the rest of the quarter. Looking at the breakdown above – we see it doesn’t take a lot to "turn" a game.  One mismatch (surprisingly, Dunleavy stayed with Kaman for the rest of the 3rd), couple missed Clipper shots (not displaying the patience on offense we did in the first half, getting away from Brand) – and it’s a ball game instead of a blow-out. 

Games like this are always interesting – as fans we often hear “the better team getting dragged down to the poor team’s level”.  This game felt much more like the “Clippers turned it on when they had to”.  Not sure why, but we just don’t wanna rip out the other team’s heart.  The box score looks tight (Clips had only 9 TOs, outrebounded the smaller Celts +2, +16 FTs made) but we could have, and should have, broken this game wide open at some point.

Let’s watch for this going-forward – I’m reminded of a past Kevin post , musing on the character and toughness of the 06/07 Clippers (inspired by the Denver brawl).  At full strength, we have the personnel to hang with any team in this league.  Especially if TT keeps this level performance up (he’s only 28, and he’s been of late showing the play of a man in his athletic prime).  But we need more if we have any hope of beating the elite… 

Some player notes:

  • Elton - I take back everything I said about Elton Brand’s 05/06 season being the standard, aberrant “career-year”….
  • Shaun - Line wasn’t great (0 points / 4 assists / 4 rebounds / 0 TOs) but I was pleased by his overall performance.  He is able to run our offense; he is in control.  Sure – he can be a sulky bastard, doesn’t have the best shot, and gets shaken easily - but Shaun’s been pushing the ball upcourt with fierce-ness and confidence, finding the open man, and looking to finish.  And he is, for the most part, a relentless defender.  
  • Kaman - gets a flyer tonight due to matchup issues – but he really can’t defend quicker PFs in this League.