BOSTON — The happenings of Saturday night’s interconference matchup between two of the best teams in the NBA was succinctly summed up by Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday in the postgame press conference, soon after his team found itself on the losing end of the encounter.
“Good old-fashioned ass whopping.”
As far as the Los Angeles Clippers were concerned, it was all about payback, even if playing in the game went against the better judgement of at least one of the team’s superstars.
Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points to spearhead the Clippers, who almost went wire-to-wire in their convincing 115-96 victory in Boston on the second game of a back-to-back that saw Los Angeles also win in Toronto, Leonard’s old stomping grounds immediately before heading to Tinseltown. Paul George scored 17 points while former Celtic Daniel Theis scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field, as the Clippers built maintained a modest lead throughout most of the first half before going on a 21-0 run in the third quarter to put the game to bed and hand Boston just its second defeat inside TD Garden this season.
“I’m happy we were able to come in and give the Celtics a loss. But it really doesn’t mean nothing until you get into the playoffs and you’re doing the things we did tonight: executing, making shots and playing good defense,” said Leonard, whose lone season with Toronto ended with an NBA championship. “We’ve got to just keep getting better as the year goes on. So once that time comes, we’re moving very efficiently.”
Remember when the Clippers were floundering soon after the trade that sent James Harden to Los Angeles from Philadelphia? That seems like eons ago, as Los Angeles now possesses a league-best 22-4 record since the start of December. One of those four defeats came at the hands of Boston, who dealt the Clippers a 145-108 defeat inside the Staples Center on December 23. In the opportunity to make a statement in the rematch, the Clippers, currently third in the Western Conference standings, wanted to make sure to leave no doubt about their championship mettle. So much so that George, who was initially scheduled to sit out tonight’s game after last night’s tilt in Toronto, laced his sneakers up to make sure he did not pass up the chance to return the favor.
“Guys were pretty motivated,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “They came to L.A. and beat us pretty bad … We understand it was a back-to-back, but guys were locked in. They were up for the challenge. It was a game we thought PG (George) might be out, but he wanted to play and see where we’re at. ”
Jayson Tatum scored 21 points for the Celtics on a night where Jaylen Brown went 3-for-13, Holiday went 2-for-11, and Kristaps Porzingis was unavailable to the team after spraining his ankle in Thursday’s victory in Miami against the Heat.
“You’re never as good as you think you are, you’re never as bad as you think you are,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday evening’s game, with all photos taken by Boston-area photographer Erica Denhoff. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 39 pictures in total.