The Celtics fell out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot Sunday night following a 119-106 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at TD Garden. It was the third straight home setback for the hosts, who were dominated by the visitors from the opening tip.
J.J. Redick (27 points) led a superb offensive attack by the Clippers’ starting lineup against a disorganized Celtics defense, as the group combined for 102 of the team’s 119 points. The efficient performance enabled the Clippers to build a 25-point first half lead and push the team’s advantage to 35 points in the third quarter.
“We didn’t provide any defensive resistance at all, nobody has against them recently if you look at their scores and watch them play,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game. “Offensively I thought that we missed a ton of great, open looks in the first half, especially from behind the arc and for whatever reason I thought that affected us negatively.”
Sunday’s performance was the second consecutive slow start for Boston at the Garden, a trend that Isaiah Thomas (19 points) says has to change.
“We gotta be the team that punches first, and not just gets hit first,” Thomas said. “The Clippers hit us first and it was all she wrote after that…I don’t know what it is, but we’re waiting to get hit and then it’s tough for us to get back in it. We gotta change that as soon as possible.”
Boston’s second unit mustered a bit of a comeback in the fourth quarter, trimming the team’s second half deficit from 35 to 11 against the Clipper second unit before the team’s starters return to shut the door.
“It’s easy to play down 30, but those guys that were in there played well,” Stevens said of the comeback, “They did the other night too. Maybe I should go with those guys earlier and see, but I thought they did a nice job of giving us a chance.”
Stevens will have to decide on some changes quickly as his team faces a crucial week in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Celtics currently sit just a half-game behind the Brooklyn Nets for the No. 8 seed in the East, but are tied with the Indiana Pacers in that spot. The Hornets loom just one game back of Brooklyn, and the C’s will face off with them on Monday night in Charlotte on the second half of a back-to-back.
“Our focus is on the Hornets now,” Thomas said after the game. “Like coach said when he came in here: Have a short memory and let’s focus on the Hornets. We need that win. I believe in these guys and I think we’ll be as focused as possible and be ready.”