The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers faced off Thursday night at Staples Center, and the team from L.A. entered the contest with the longest active winning streak in the entire NBA. A 106-77 win over Boston has increased that streak to 15, and in a game that was never close, Los Angeles showed yet again that they are an ever-improving ball club.
On paper, this game belongs to the Clippers every time, and the first quarter began just as the stats indicated it should. L.A. came out hot, as they took an 18-4 lead halfway through the opening period. Boston made just two of their first 10 shots, while Los Angeles was shooting near 70 percent to begin the game.
The second quarter began more competitively than the first. The pace was fast, the scoring was even and no one team was able to establish momentum. Unfortunately for Boston, they trailed by double-digits, so simply matching L.A.’s play wasn't what they needed and trailed 60-47 at half.
The third quarter saw L.A. maintain their lead all the way through, and the frustrations and physicality of the Celtics finally began to show. The contest got chippy, and with both teams playing at a frantic pace, it was easy to see emotions stirring on both sides of the floor. The fourth period was much of the same, and with “the wave” as the only way of keeping the crowd involved, the home team ran away with this one in lopsided fashion.
The Clippers are the hottest team in the NBA heading into the New Year, and if they keep dominating the competition, they’ll be ready to take on whoever comes their way in the 2013 postseason.
Chris Paul, PG, LAC: B
Chris Paul had a quiet outing Thursday night. His shot wasn’t falling, as he completed just three of his 11 attempts, and he had just eight points in his 29 minutes of play. That being said, quiet isn’t always bad, as he was helping set up his teammates.
We all know that the Clippers want to get out and run. A fast-paced offense is where they thrive, and Paul was showing why he is the perfect floor general for them once again.
The point guard found a way to record 11 assists in this one, and his play-making abilities outweighed his inability to score in a battle that never needed him to put the ball in the basket.
Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS: C
Rondo never quite got going in this one. It looked early like he might impact a number of areas on the stat sheet, but he finished the game with a balanced, yet mundane 10 points, five rebounds and six assists.
He was visibly frustrated for much of the contest, and while those frustrations can sometimes propel him to success, it appeared to hinder his production this night. His willingness to attack the rim was good to see, but you can't ignore his 4-of-12 shooting from the field.
Rondo is the kind of player who can control a game from start to finish, but this was not one of those outings.
Willie Green, SG, LAC: B
If you ask the casual viewer from Thursday night’s contest how Willie Green played, you’re not likely to hear much of a response. He’s not as flashy as the go-to scorers on the roster, and while he’s not often given credit, he also has a tendency to avoid blame.
However, if you’re a Clippers fan, you like what you saw out of your starting shooting guard—especially early in the contest.
When L.A. was making their first big run, Green was a part of it. He helped spread the floor, he made both of his three-point attempts, and he took six points to the bench after nine solid minutes on the court.
Green went on to play 20 minutes and score nine points, and while his game was quiet, it was efficient enough to help make a difference.
Jason Terry, SG, BOS: D+
Jason Terry hasn't had a great 2012-13 campaign up to this point, but he played well early against the Clips.
Terry shot the ball nicely in the first half, as he knocked down two of his three shots from long range, and he shot 50 percent from the field. Unfortunately for the Boston Celtics, he completely disappeared in the second half.
The 2-guard didn't take a shot in the third, and he finished the game with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting in 31 minutes.
Caron Butler, SF, LAC: B+
Caron Butler never stood out as one of the top performers, but he quietly put together one of the best showings of the night.
The small forward finished the game with 14 points on an efficient 6-of-12 shooting. He played solid defense, and he is part of the reason Paul Pierce struggled to get going for any sort of stretch.
The thing Butler did the best, though, was simply use his head. He took the right shots, he made the right passes and his stat sheet reflected the kind of game we saw him play on national television.
Paul Pierce, SF, BOS: D+
Paul Pierce had a moment in the first half where he tied Elgin Baylor for 24th on the all-time scorers list, but unfortunately for the 35-year-old veteran, that was one of the only moments worth celebrating.
The small forward had a frustrating visit to Staples Center. He finished the game with 12 points on just 5-of-13 shooting, and he was never able to establish any sort of flow within the Boston Celtics offense.
Pierce is the No. 1 scorer for Boston, and they needed more out of him against a team that is in the top 10 in points scored and the top 3 in points allowed.
Blake Griffin, PF, LAC: A
Blake Griffin came out Thursday night and immediately showed that he is more than a dunking machine.
His jump shot was on, his back-down game was strong and he finished the first period with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting. Griffin had an extremely quiet second half, but by the time the first quarter was over, the team no longer needed him to stand out.
The big man would go on to finish the game with eight rebounds and 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, but considering he only played 26 minutes the entire way, his efficiency and production were the main reasons L.A. took momentum.
Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS: B-
Kevin Garnett only scored one bucket in the opening quarter, but what a shot it was. With 1.5 seconds on the clock, Rajon Rondo made a pass the length of the court, and Garnett made a beautiful turnaround jumper.
When the second quarter began, it looked as if that shot might have been just what he needed. He came out and played well against the Clippers’ starting unit, but unfortunately for Boston, he couldn’t get his shot to fall consistently.
He was the leading scorer for the team with 16, as he played well in small stints, but four rebounds is unacceptable for a player of his position.
DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC: C+
DeAndre Jordan only played 18 minutes, and while the pace of the game was right up his alley, foul trouble minimized his impact.
The big man for L.A. managed to score just seven points, but he did make all three of his shots. Seven rebounds was also good to see considering how few minutes he played.
Where he excelled the most was filling the lanes and keeping Boston honest in transition. If he can continue doing those things throughout the year, he'll continue to fill his role nicely.
Jason Collins, C, BOS: F
It's safe to say coming into this contest that not much was expected from Jason Collins. He is averaging 1.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and .4 blocks per game, and his PER is an underwhelming .86.
The big man in green didn't provide any major surprises in this one. He didn't take a single shot, he didn't score a single point, and his one rebound in 15 minutes was the extent of his production.
Collins was completely invisible, and while he never made any plays that were detrimental to the team's success, he really didn't contribute in a way that made life any easier.
Jamal Crawford, SG, LAC: A
Jamal Crawford is the early favorite for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, and he showed us all why Thursday night.
The 2-guard came off the bench late in the first quarter and almost immediately began firing away. He is averaging 16.5 points per game, which is good enough for second on the roster, and he eclipsed that mark in this one with 17 points in 24 minutes.
When Crawford is feeling it, he’s one of the more entertaining guards to watch in the NBA. He can put the ball in the basket, and he can do so while taking extremely difficult shots. We saw both of those things on display in the win over Boston.
Courtney Lee, SG, BOS: C-
Like Jason Terry, Courtney Lee shot the ball decently and managed to scrounge up 12 points. But also like Terry, Lee didn't have much of an impact on the final result.
Lee shot 50 percent from the field—including 50 percent from the three-point line—and while he was certainly a threat to score, he never made L.A. believe he was actually going to do it.
His 25 minutes didn't go to waste, but he couldn't help keeping this one from getting ugly.
Los Angeles Clippers: A+
The superstars on the Clippers roster are the ones who get the credit for the team's success, but the reserves on this team have been one of the best groups to come off the bench in the entire NBA.
In the first seven minutes of the second quarter, the Clippers bench was able to outscore their opponents 23-14. They finished the game with 53 points on 20-of-41 shooting as a group.
Jamal Crawford may be the sixth man, but he’s not the only player who had an impact in this game. Matt Barnes had double-digits before halftime—he finished with an efficient 21 points—and Lamar Odom was all over the stat sheet with 13 rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
Los Angeles has done a fantastic job of finding players who fit their style of play, and with such good chemistry at this point in the season, it’s safe to say that they have one of the deepest rotations in the Association.
Boston Celtics: C-
The Boston starters struggled mightily in this blowout loss, and they needed big-time production from their second unit if they stood any chance late.
Unfortunately, as the final score may indicate, they never found that production.
It wasn't all bad for the Celtic reserves, as they managed to get nine rebounds from Brandon Bass, 12 points out of Courtney Lee and toughness out of Jared Sullinger; but those positives are a minor footnote in an awful loss for Boston.