After being ravaged by injuries and 'health and safety protocols' in January, the Boston Celtics struggled to win three in a row for over six weeks.
Now, within touching distance of the All-Star break, they seem to be turning the corner.
"We played with more intent to win," All-Star Jaylen Brown said after the Celtics defeated the Clippers 117-112. "With a little less complacency. We're putting together better overall games than we have."
The victory, in a game that witnessed 16 lead changes and 11 ties, was Boston's third straight.
Walker leads Celtics' balanced offence
Six Celtics scored in double figures led by Kemba Walker's 25 points, his fourth straight game of 20 or more and seventh in the last nine.
Kemba (25 PTS, 6 3PM), @celtics (3 straight Ws) stay hot! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/WwuFgts9ir- NBA (@NBA) March 3, 2021
"I'm feeling good, that's all I can say," Walker said postgame.
Walker also dished out six assists while first-time All-Star Jaylen Brown was the next highest scorer with 18. Jayson Tatum struggled to knock down shots efficiently but contributed across the board with 14 points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
As a team, the hosts shot 42-of-86 (48.8%) from the field and 16-of-32 (50.0%) from beyond the arc while making hay whenever the Clippers turned the ball over by scoring 15 points off their nine turnovers.
For the season, the Celtics are among the bottom five in bench production but in this one, the reserves outscored their counterparts 38-30.
Robert Williams was the star off the bench, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in 22 minutes.
Rob Williams elevates for the lob from Payton Pritchard in tonight's @JetBlue Play of the Game! pic.twitter.com/oELPNHeVy6- Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 3, 2021
"He's got a lot of experience under his belt," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said postgame on Williams. "Maybe not as much game minutes, but being around (Aron) Baynes and (Al) Horford, helped him. You can't undersell that. ... He's on a great trajectory. He's a competitor. He wants to win."
Payton Pritchard was the other big contributor off the bench, with 14 points and three assists in 23 minutes.
For the Clippers, who rank among the top five in bench production, received 30 from the trio of Lou Williams (12), Marcus Morris (10), and Terrence Mann (8).
PG scores plenty but struggles late
With no Kawhi Leonard, who missed this one due to back spasms, all eyes were on Paul George and he delivered with a team-high 32 points for the game.
He caught fire in the first half and led all scorers, but the second half, especially the fourth quarter, it was a different story.
📊 21 PTS / 8-12 FG / 2 3PM@Yg_Trece was dialed in during the first half. pic.twitter.com/1YZkqSgZYr- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 3, 2021
In the latter 24 minutes, he scored 11 on 4-of-14 shooting and in the fourth, he scored five on 2-of-10. It's the second straight game, including their loss in Milwaukee a few days earlier, where he's not had it going late.
Paul George last two 4th quarters:- StatMuse (@statmuse) March 3, 2021
He's shooting 25% in the clutch this season. pic.twitter.com/oO0O4CRJ9Y
He snapped out of a three-game streak where he scored less than 20 but In this one, only three of his points (1-11 FGs) came when guarded by either Tatum or Brown.
He finished as one of five Clippers in double figures as Reggie Jackson came huge in his starting role with 25 points and seven assists.
The Celtics will wrap-up their first-half schedule, after a day off, at home against the Raptors, looking to win four straight. Meanwhile, the Clippers will travel to Washington D.C and wrap-up their first-half schedule against the Wizards after a day off.
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