Clippers Beat the Celtics

Sometimes it's not how you play against an opponent, but it's when you play them that matters most. The Clippers caught the Celtics at the end of a tough six-game road trip, and stayed close enough to pull out a win at the end, 93-91 at Staples Center.

After Boston had won four of their last five on the road against Western Conference teams in the playoff chase, it appeared from the start as if they didn't quite bring their "A" game to play the Clippers. Since L.A. is actually starting to get healthy, they were able to take advantage of Boston's early lack of interest by taking a five point lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Celtics woke up a bit in the second, and outscored the Clips by nine in the period to take a four-point lead into halftime. And when Paul Pierce opened the third quarter with a three-pointer to extend his team's lead to seven, it seemed like things were finally going to go as planned for Boston.

But they didn't.

The Clippers managed a comeback, thanks to 10 third quarter points from Zach Randolph. They cut the lead to one by the time the period ended, even after losing rookie Eric Gordon to a shoulder injury, which he sustained trying to get around a Kendrick Perkins screen. Gordon did not return for the rest of the game, and his team sorely missed him down the stretch.

L.A.'s offensive possessions were mostly brutal in the waning minutes of the game, but the team was fortunate enough to have players in the right place at the right time, especially on the possession where they scored what turned out to be the game-winning basket. And honestly, a questionable call from the officials is what gave them that possession in the first place.

With the Celtics leading by one and 33 seconds remaining, Rajon Rondo missed a free throw, and the rebound went to the Clippers' Mardy Collins. Sort of. L.A. had informed the referees during the dead ball that if they got the rebound, they wanted an immediate timeout. Collins went up and had the ball momentarily, but it seemed to be stripped by the Celtics' Glen Davis before Collins came down with it. The refs blew the extremely quick whistle anyway, and granted the Clippers the timeout, as well as possession of the ball.

Celtics' coach Doc Rivers was extremely upset about this on the sidelines, and he had good reason to be -- especially based on what happened next.

Without Eric Gordon and Baron Davis (who had fouled out a few plays earlier), the Clippers had a shortage of players who would normally take a pressure-packed shot, and it showed. The inbound pass went to Marcus Camby, who passed to Fred Jones on the wing. Jones dumped it into Zach Randolph (who appeared to have good position), but Randolph kicked it back out to him at the top of the circle. Jones eluded his man and was wide open for a 15-foot jumper -- but passed on it, instead tossing it to Mardy Collins along the baseline. Collins then threw up about an eight-foot floater -- which he completely air-balled -- and Randolph was there to clean up the mess, getting the rebound and putting it up and in with 19 seconds to go. Paul Pierce missed a jumper on the other end, and that was that.

Zach Randolph finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds, Marcus Camby had 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots, and Baron Davis finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. But it was the contributions of players like Fred Jones and Mardy Collins in the fourth quarter that really helped pushed L.A. over the top to victory.

Al Thornton sat out the game for L.A., and Kevin Garnett missed this one for Boston. Considering who was left on the floor for the Clippers on those final few possessions, it's fairly miraculous that the game turned out the way it did. But with Boston a little road-weary, and L.A. getting a little lucky, things finally went the Clippers' way.

It's the first time all season that anyone could say that with a straight face.

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