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.