BOSTON -- After a brief postgame news conference that centered mainly on the slippery court caused by unseasonably warm temperatures in Boston on Monday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers stood up from the lectern and declared, "It's time to go home and watch '24.'"
Rivers needed a little drama after Boston's nondescript 95-89 triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers at TD Garden.
For the first three quarters, the sweaty court was the story of a game in which the combatants combined to shoot a meager 41.8 percent (49 of 117) from the floor.
Kendrick Perkins' jumper to start the third quarter gave Boston a lead it wouldn't relinquish, and Rasheed Wallace's 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter helped the Celtics build a double-digit advantage. Boston, even as it struggled to put the game away at the free throw line, fended off the Clippers from there.
"We are not perfect," Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. "Some nights we make it look easy and other nights we make it look difficult, but that's what it is."
The Clippers put six players in double figures, but they shot a gruesome 38.8 percent from the floor (31 of 80), combining for a mere 34 points in the first and third quarters. Rasual Butler, who wasn't even a starter last month, registered a team-high 17 points for the Clippers on 6-of-12 shooting, and Chris Kaman clanked 14 shots while netting 10 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
Rivers was asked what his team did differently on defense this time around. He admitted it was nothing more than Rondo staying in front of the ball handler.
"Well, we didn't necessarily 'fix' it because we don't change our defense very often," Rivers said. "We are who we are. We just did our defense better tonight. I thought we had a better sense of urgency."
After losing eight times in 12 games before Garnett's return last week, the Celtics will take a win any way they can get it as they enter a rigorous stretch that features games against Atlanta, Orlando and the Lakers in the next six days.
"We've got to take it one game at a time," Perkins said. "Doc said we've got 40 games left; we are past the halfway point. We've just got to take it one game at a time, take it seriously, and go out there and compete."
Although Monday's game won't cause an overwhelming sense of confidence, Rivers said he sees his team moving in the right direction.
Even if he wouldn't have blamed fans for changing the channel to "24" on Monday.
"We're not there, but it's coming," Rivers said. "And that's what you want. As a coach, you want to always say it's coming because that means you're improving and you're taking steps forward. The game the other night, we didn't play great, but we won. Tonight, we didn't play great the entire game, but we played in stretches. So it's definitely coming. You can feel it.
"I'll be glad when it gets here."
So will Celtics fans.