Updated: March 13, 2012, 4:34 PM ET

1. Clips Rise To Bait, Fall To Green Killjoys

By Justin Verrier
ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Celtics were left for dead long before the daily rumor mill began picking at its aging core.

With what's left of its titled-winning nucleus rotting away by the week in a regular season built to slowly grind away even the spryest of knees, one last run at a return to glory has turned into a constant struggle to remain respectable.

But even without Master of Scowls and Forearm Shivers Kendrick Perkins, the C's veteran group of agitators can still get a rise out teams. They hung around with the Lakers like the good old days the night prior, and followed it up by bringing to life a Los Angeles Clippers team fresh off a loss to the Warriors that left many wondering if all their energy was lost on their way back from a six-game road swing.

Long before the Celtics walked away with a 94-85 win, the technical fouls went flying and the glares only became more chilly in a first half that got more physical as the minutes ticked away. But each blow sent by Celtics was sent back the other way.

Greg Stiemsma and Blake Griffin were given the double-tech treatment in the first quarter after the Celtics center didn't take kindly to a ball handed his way after a Griffin slam. DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Garnett followed suit after a dustup the next quarter. Doc Rivers was next, arguing a call not much later.

Stiemsma failed to block a Clippers shot hoisted up after the whistle, KG style, in the second quarter and Jordan celebrated the minor victory with a Tiger Woods fist pump. On a night like this, a win in even the most petty of squabbles was hailed.

The Clippers kept on fighting, and with their best five (Chris Paul, Mo Williams, Caron Butler, Griffin and Jordan) playing together and playing well for the first time in who knows how long, L.A. mounted a 48-39 halftime lead that seemed to only kick more dirt onto a Boston team buried in the Eastern Conference standings.

"[Sunday] night, we lost to somebody in our division we knew we shouldn't have lost to, at home especially," Jordan said. "Tonight we knew we had to come out with intensity against this team. Because those guys have been together for a while and they know how to win."

The physical part wasn't too difficult for a team full of freak athletes and guys one wouldn't want any part of in a bar fight, even one drenched in Garnett sweat.

It's when the going gets tough that, as usual, proved to be the true challenge.

The Celtics stormed back against the Clippers' clearly broken defense, falling back on a familiar formula of Paul Pierce isolations (17 points in the second half), Ray Allen knock-down jumpers (12 second-half points), a few reliable Garnett long 2s (13 points after halftime) and Rajon Rondo drive-and-dishes (six and six in the second) to first take the lead heading into the fourth and then to hold on to it after an L.A. offensive surge tied the game twice in the final six minutes.

Boston may not have had any shiny new pre-deadline piece in its lineup to turn to, but against a Clippers team playing Bobby Simmons, three days removed from signing his second 10-day contract, the old formula was more than enough. The Celtics sniffed out the weak link in the defense and exploited it, forcing a switch that put the 6-foot-6 Simmons on the 6-11 Garnett, who struck the deciding blow with a fadeaway to put Boston up five with under a minute to go.

"We talked about [putting Jordan in], but I just felt that those guys were in the rhythm of the game," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "DJ hadn't played in a little bit, and I just felt like those guys had a feel for what Paul and Kevin were gonna do. "

But it was far from the magic touch. The struggles on the defensive end only hampered a normally high-powered offense, as the Clippers shot 1-for-8 from the floor and turned it over three times after the Celtics tied the game at 78 with 3:15 to play.

"This is Lob City and they enjoy the game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You can see when they play they have a lot of fun and we just had to make this game no fun. We talked about it before the game how this cannot be a joyous occasion and has to be no fun. Our guys went out there and turned the game from a joyous occasion into a competition."

No fun, but it still works.

Justin Verrier is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter

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