Doomed from the start: Celtics coach Doc Rivers could tell his team was a bit sluggish out of the gates Wednesday and knew that didn't bode well for his team's chances.
"I thought our energy was really low to start the game, honestly," said Rivers. "Early on,I turned to [assistant coach] Lawrence [Frank] and said, ‘Well, we’re behind on everything.’ I told them at halftime that we were going to get back in the game, but it’s going to be very difficult to turn them off. Because once you turn a team on and they start making shots, they’re comfortable.
"And give [the Clippers] credit. Even when we cut it, they still made a couple big 3's. But a lot of that was us. A lot of the 3-point shots were just lost guys in rotation, and that’s tough. A lot of things we didn’t do. DeAndre Jordan, I love. But he’s a defensive player who scored 21 points tonight. And a lot of it was out of our rotations. So I always put that on us as a coaching staff. And then a lot of it -- some of it was our guys. Half the time we should have fouled. He’s not a great free throw shooter. I think we did one time the entire game.
Losses always surprise the Celtics: One year after struggling mightily to defend their home turf, the Celtics have done a phenomenal job this season of winning on the Garden floor. Wednesday's loss was only the sixth defeat here this season. That didn't make it any easier to swallow for someone like Ray Allen.
"I do believe we're always surprised when we lose," said Allen. "We expect to win every game. We've won a lot of games, so we know the feeling of winning and losing with the feeling of what feeling you don't want. But any team at any point in this league is capable of winning any game. We're not better than them because of our record, we're better than them because we play hard every night, we play together. When you walk into a game your record doesn't get you the next win. You have to take a team like that and you've got to show them why they don't belong on the same floor as us, and I don't think tonight we [did that]. We let them play to all their strengths early when they were comfortable and they played their type of basketball, so deep in the fourth quarter everybody was rolling."
Given the Clippers' 25-40 record, it made Wednesday's loss that much tougher to swallow.
"Maybe we shouldn’t play West Coast teams at the Garden," joked Rivers. "Because they haven’t gone well.”
KG struggles with his shot: Celtics forward Kevin Garnett missed 14 shots Wednesday night, finishing 5-of-19 shooting from the field with 16 points and eight rebounds over 33:47.
Maybe it's because Garnett has had only one real clunker since the All-Star break (also vs. the Clippers, going 5-for-14 overall for 14 points in Los Angeles), but the off night seemed magnified. Rivers stressed it happens.
"He just struggled," said Rivers. "He had a bad night. I knew he was human before the night and it just confirmed it. He just had one of those nights. I thought he was pressing at times offensively, which he never does. I never thought he had balance on his shots. I thought everything was front rim, which to me is fatigue. So, that was tough."
The Clippers seemed satisfied in at least keeping Garnett in check for a second straight meeting.
"Kevin is such a difficult cover, he can get his shot off on a step-back," said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. "And we’re just trying to make it difficult, get a guy in his face, at the end we kind of rotated a couple times to him, but if you rotate to him too much he picks you apart. He got a backdoor cut to Pierce on one play, a 3 for Ray on another play, you have to pick your poison a little bit because they execute so well, and they know how to win."
No highlights for Blake, but others take spotlight: Rivers was pleased with the way the Celtics defended Clippers superstar rookie Blake Griffin (limiting him to 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting with only one late-game dunk), but Boston didn't do quite as good of a job on his supporting cast.
"Mo Williams has been playing terrific for them," Rivers said after Williams poured in a game-high 28 points over 41 minutes. "If you had told me that DeAndre Jordan would have 21 [points], I’d have not been very happy about that. Because he just did it with his energy. That’s a really nice young team. They’ve got their bigs, and they all play their role. And I was talking about Jordan before the game, and it’s rare when you get a young kid that really doesn’t need to score, he just wants to run the floor, sets picks, and block shots, and if scoring comes on rolls to the basket he’ll take it, and he’s happy with that, that’s unusual and that’s great."
Added Pierce: "Yeah, definitely, we wanted to get the ball out of Griffin's hands, but at the same time you have to pay attention to a number of guys who are out there who are more than capable. You've got an All-Star in Mo Williams, obviously you can't leave him and DeAndre Jordan, a promising young big man who's really coming into his own. I thought we really left them open too many times underneath the basket. We did focus on their star, Blake, but I felt like we forgot about the other guys and those are the guys that beat us."