Boston wins third straight because of their… offense? Yup.

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The Boston Celtics won their fourth straight game without Rajon Rondo — this one against a title contender from the West (well, contender unless you ask Charles Barkley) — because of their high-powered offense.

You read that right. The Celtics without Rondo and Jared Sullinger abused the fifth-best defense in the NBA this season on their way to a 106-104 win Sunday at home.

It’s not the kind of game that answers the Celtics long-term questions, but it is wins like this that makes sure they make the playoffs this season.

Boston really won this game in the second quarter, when they outscored the Clippers 26-10 to open a 19-point halftime lead. (A lead they almost squandered, but that’s another topic.) It was the Celtics bench that did it — it accounted for 19 of the Celtics points that quarter, led by Jason Terry with 6 (he finished the game with 13 and was a game high +17). The Clippers shot 22.2 percent for the quarter and had 8 turnovers in the 12 minutes, the second game in a row where their vaunted bench decided to take the second quarter off from scoring.

Boston’s bench outscored the Clippers 59-22, if you’re looking for one stat that describes what happened.

This is the second game of the Clippers Grammy road trip where their defense decided to take a game off, and once again it cost them. Boston scored 111.7 points per 100 possessions in this game, which is 11 points per 100 better than its season average. Boston was finding ways to score and the more athletic and longer Clipper front line wasn’t able to stop them.

Yet the Clippers chipped away and chipped away at the lead in the second half and they got it all the way down to a two-point game inside of a minute left. The Clippers shot 58.5 points in the second half and they were led by Eric Bledsoe who had 17 after halftime.

But with it tight, Paul Pierce hit a step-back three with less than three seconds left that was the dagger, on his way to finishing with 22 points. It was vintage Pierce right over a Matt Barnes contest.

Be careful reading too much into this game — both teams were without their star starting point guards. As good as Bledsoe has been, Chris Paul remains the best point guard in the game and Clippers miss what he can do. Boston, without Rondo, is not the same team on either end of the court.

But Boston is winning, which is what gritty veteran teams do. Boston is not going to roll over because of its injuries. And while they may not be a contender they are not going to be an easy playoff out for anyone.

Jalen Rose calls Paul Pierce petty to his face (video)

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Paul Pierce is being petty about Isaiah Thomas‘ tribute video.

And that’s from someone who empathizes with Pierce’s point of view.

When retiring a player’s number, teams tastefully use stoppages to show highlights and tributes to the player. The whole night, not just the moment of raising a number into the rafters, can be about celebrating the player. It’s reasonable for Pierce to want the entire package.

But to go on television and advocate for not showing Thomas’ video? To continue the campaign after Thomas made clear how important his video was to him? To tell the Celtics not to show a short video for Thomas during introductions?

It’s way too far.

Too many people around Pierce enabled his flawed approach. Jalen Rose put that to a pointed stop.

Rose on ESPN:

I’ve got say a word for you, fam. I think it was petty.

On Paul Pierce’s part.

I love Paul. This is my brother. Because to me, there are going to be all type of announcements that happen in the 48 minutes during that game. All types. Including Isaiah Thomas could be one of them. It does not take away from your situation. Like Kobe’s, it happened during the game. Because they’re doing yours post-game.

The look on Pierce’s face while Rose was talking!

PBT Extra: Fan votes from twitter on MVP, other awards

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We reached the middle of the NBA season, which is a good time to consider where things stand for the end-of-season awards such as MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year. We have made our picks and even broken them down in a podcast.

Now it was time to ask you who you thought should win awards.

I put it out there on Twitter in some polls, and I cover your responses in this PBT Extra. I’m with you on Brad Stevens for Coach of the Year, although I think it’s close. Did you choose LeBron James or James Harden for MVP? Watch and find out.

NBA: Referees missed multiple intentional-foul attempts by Mavericks in loss to Nuggets

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The Mavericks trailed the Nuggets by 23 points in the second half and 16 points with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter last night. But Dallas rallied and cut its deficit to only one with 10.4 seconds left. Denver had the ball, so the Mavericks had to foul.

They tried… and tried… and tried before finally succeeding.

Per the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report, Dennis Smith Jr. should have been called for intentionally fouling Will Barton with 8.2 seconds left. Failing that, Wesley Matthews should have been called for intentionally fouling Barton with 6.7 seconds left. Mercifully, officials (correctly) whistled Matthews for fouling Gary Harris with 1.7 seconds left.

Harris made both free throws, and the Nuggets escaped with a 105-102 win once Dallas couldn’t get off a shot with so little time left.

The Mavericks probably would have lost even with a correct call on this sequence. They were trailing in the final 10 seconds and without the ball.

But allowing Denver to run off an extra 6.5 seconds and get the ball to a better free-throw shooter certainly hurt Dallas’ odds.

I’m not so concerned with the result of this game, though. The Mavericks are better off improving their lottery position by losing. It is a bad break for the teams jockeying with the Nuggets for playoff position, but, again, Denver probably would have won anyway.

The bigger takeaway: Even if players are more concerned about communication than calls, if referees can’t even get consecutive intentional fouls right, that doesn’t instill much confidence in the officials.

Rockets’ Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green suspended two games for charging into Clippers’ locker room

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The Clippers-Rockets game on Monday was wild from start to finish past finish. Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green, James Harden and Chris Paul reportedly went through a back hallway to the Clippers locker room to confront Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin after the game.

NBA release:

Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza and guard Gerald Green have each been suspended two games without pay for entering the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room to confront a player from the opposing team, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred following the Clippers’ 113-102 win over the Rockets on Jan. 15 at Staples Center.  During the league’s investigation, which included more than 20 interviews with executives, staff, coaches and players from both teams, as well as arena personnel, it was determined that Ariza and Green entered the Clippers’ locker room immediately after the game and engaged in a hostile, verbal altercation with several Clippers players.  The league’s investigation further concluded that Rockets players, James Harden and Chris Paul, followed Ariza and Green into the corridor outside the locker room in an effort to defuse the situation, and accordingly, discipline is not warranted.

It’s difficult to unsort exactly what happened away from the court. I don’t envy the NBA’s job here, nor do I blindly trust that the biggest stars should escape punishment.

Ariza and Green will miss games against the Timberwolves on Thursday and Warriors on Saturday. Paul and Harden (if healthy) will be eligible to play in both nationally televised contests.

I’m just surprised Griffin didn’t receive additional penalty for striking Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: