It’s a simple formula.
You could take the first three quarters from any Celtics game and plug them into any other and no one would know the difference. Against the best and worst teams, the Celtics keep it close for three frames.
And in the last 14 contests, the ending hasn’t been hard to figure out, either. Simply insert your favorite kind of fourth-quarter collapse and you have the essence of Boston’s 14-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history. The latest defeat came Friday night at the Garden, 100-89, at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Down 47-42 at halftime, the Celtics took a 57-56 lead on an Al Jefferson jump-hook with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
The teams traded baskets for the rest of the third quarter. Brian Scalabrine hit two big buckets late in the period, including a jumper at the three-minute mark to put the Celtics up, 67-65.
Rajon Rondo made the most of his starting opportunity from Celtics coach Doc Rivers. The rookie point guard had a Kidd-esque 23 points (10 for 16), six rebounds, six assists, and four steals for Boston. Rondo harassed L.A.’s Sam Cassell all game and made it difficult for the veteran to get comfortable.
The Clippers opened up a five-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but like they usually do, the Celtics fought back and came close to even with their opponent. A hook shot by Al Jefferson with 7:54 left in the fourth quarter brought the Celtics with within 78-77.
Then it happened. The Clippers got a couple of free throws and a three-point play by Tim Thomas, while Rondo missed a pair of free throws at the other end. L.A. went up, 83-77, and never looked back.
Elton Brand was a beast inside for Los Angeles, pouring in 26 points and grabbing 19 rebounds for the Clippers.
We’ll be back in a bit with comments from what is bound to be a somber Celtics locker room (if that doesn’t convince you to stick around I’m not sure what will).