Celtics say goodbye to Paul Pierce, beat Clippers 107-102 (VIDEO)

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BOSTON (AP) Isaiah Thomas stole the spotlight from Paul Pierce on Sunday, scoring 28 points to lead Boston to its seventh straight victory, a 107-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in the former Celtics captain’s final game in the Garden.

Al Horford had 13 points and a season-high 15 rebounds for the Celtics, who brought Pierce to tears with a first-quarter highlight video. Thomas had eight assists but had a four-game streak of 35-point games snapped.

Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford scored 23 apiece, and DeAndre Jordan had 16 rebounds for Los Angeles, which lost for the sixth time in eight games. Pierce’s only points came on a 3 after checking in with 19 seconds left and the game out of reach.

With fans undecided on whether to cheer louder for the Celtics, for Pierce, or for the New England Patriots, who played in the Super Bowl later Sunday, the basketball team held on as the Clippers cut a 12-point lead to 103-99 in the final minute.

Pierce started and played the first five minutes and then went to the bench – even as the crowd chanted his name, egged on by the Celtics cheerleaders and even Thomas himself. After Griffin missed a 3-pointer that could have made it a one-possession game, Pierce checked back in for the final possessions and, with the fans already standing and cheering, hit a 3-pointer that was meaningful only to them.

As the crowd was filtering out to get home in time for the Super Bowl, Pierce walked back onto the parquet floor, dropped to his knees, and kissed the leprechaun at center court.

Pierce, 39, has said he will retire after the season. He had not played since Dec. 31 but former Celtics coach Doc Rivers put him in the starting lineup so he could have a fitting farewell.

Boston scored the first six points of the game and had a 29-14 lead late in the first quarter. The Clippers ran off 10 straight points in the second – five from Raymond Felton followed by five from Jamal Crawford – to make it a two-point game.

But it was 56-47 at the half and a 14-point Boston lead at the end of three. The Clippers got within four in the final minute, 103-99, but Griffin missed a 3 from the left side, Horford got the rebound and sank his foul shots.

TIP-INS

It was Pierce’s 630th game at the new Boston Garden. He has never failed to score in the building…. Celtics G Avery Bradley missed his 10th straight game with a sore Achilles tendon. … The Celtics took a franchise-record 52 3-pointers. … Celtics Jaylen Brown and Jonas Jerebko took each other out when the collided under the basket early in the fourth quarter. Jerebko (nose) did not return. … Pierce’s final 3-pointer was the only one made by a Clippers starter.

UP NEXT

Clippers: at Toronto on Monday.

Celtics: At Sacramento on Wednesday.

Joel Embiid: Aron Baynes (‘Man bun’) ‘in NBA just to get dunked on’

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During the second round of the NBA playoffs, Heat guard Goran Dragic slighted 76ers rookie Ben Simmons. That came after Philadelphia eliminated Miami in the first round.

The procession of disses continues with 76ers center Joel Embiid mocking Celtics center Aron Baynes during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday. Boston, of course, eliminated Philadelphia in the previous round.

Embiid:

Baynes has gotten dunked on a lot this year – including by Embiid in the playoffs. The two also got into it during their second-round series.

But Baynes has the big edge: He’s still playing.

Though Embiid would like to be in the playoffs, that’s not his only goal. He also wants attention. So, mission accomplished, I guess.

Watch James Harden demolish Draymond Green with dunk (video)

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It got buried by a – finallyclose finish, but James Harden‘s dunk over Draymond Green in the Rockets’ Game 4 win over the Warriors last night was spectacular.

Because the foul was called early in the play, Green essentially had free reign to do anything sub-flagrant to Harden during continuation. There wouldn’t have been a second personal foul called.

Harden dunked anyway, an amazing display of athleticism and will.

PBT Podcast: Conference Finals now best of three; plus Metta World Peace

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Both NBA Conference Finals are tied 2-2 in both the East and West — and breaking that down is not even the best part of this podcast.

That’s because NBA champion Metta World Peace joins us to talk about his new book, “No Malice: My Life in Basketball or: How a Kid from Queensbridge Survived the Streets, the Brawls, and Himself to Become an NBA Champion.” World Peace discusses the time he cracked Michael Jordan’s ribs in a summer game, how he was nervous before Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2010, and how he was a pioneer in NBA players talking about mental health. (Metta’s portion of the podcast starts at 30:17, if you want to skip ahead).

Prior to that, Dan Feldman and Kurt Helin of NBC Sports dive into a discussion of the two conference finals series. LeBron James brought Cleveland back, but with the Celtics going home will the young players wearing green respond and change the momentum around again?

Do the Warriors have another gear and the ability to win another game on the road in Houston? How are both of those teams going to deal with fatigue from their tight rotations and intense games?

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Clippers extend contract of coach Doc Rivers

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While not many people were noticing, Doc Rivers did arguably his best coaching job since coming to Los Angeles this season. Chris Paul forced his way to Houston before the season, then during it Blake Griffin was shipped off to Detroit. Then there were the injuries to Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari, two players expected to be key contributors who played a combined 32 games. The offense too often felt like Lou Williams vs. The World, yet the Clippers finished above .500 (42-40) and pushed for a playoff spot until the final days of the regular season.

The Clippers noticed what a good job he did, and how well he handled things after losing his GM powers to Lawrence Frank. That’s why they have rewarded him with a contract extension (the details of which are not yet public).

“I am proud of the success we have had here over the last five seasons, but there is more work to be done,” said Rivers in a statement released by the team. “We are coming off a year where our team battled through many challenges and much adversity, proving deep talent and even greater potential. I am looking forward to getting back to work on the court to develop our players and compete with the NBA’s elite.”

“Doc is one of the top coaches in the NBA, coming off one of his finest seasons since joining the Clippers,” Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer said in a statement. “We trust Doc to lead a competitive, tough, hard-working team while upholding a culture of accountability expected to resonate throughout the organization.”

Rivers was entering the final year of his contract, and neither side wanted him to be in a lame duck status.

For a Clippers franchise in transition, this is a stabilizing move. CP3 and Griffin are gone, DeAndre Jordan can be a free agent this summer, and Los Angeles has some big-picture questions about the direction to take the team it needs to answer. Unlike in Boston, Rivers is going to stick around for this restructuring.

Plus, this is good for Rivers, who makes no secret of the fact he likes living in Los Angeles. He has a comfort level with the city and the organization. Rivers likely took a healthy pay cut from the more than $10 million a year he was getting to be coach and GM, but it’s still good money and an organization he likes. So he is sticking around.