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Celtics put a damper on Clippers' upset bid, 95-89

Clippers lead early but can't hang on, and Boston surges in second half to win at TD Banknorth Garden, on a court made dangerously slick by condensation.

January 26, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from Boston — The Clippers went slip-sliding away. Then their lead did the same.

Neither was a particularly pleasurable development for the Clippers on a night when they lost a chance to complete a rare season sweep of the Boston Celtics.

The only thing that proved more bothersome than a slippery TD Banknorth Garden floor Monday during the Clippers' 95-89 loss was their inability to make shots.

Guard Baron Davis made five of 13 shots, and he had a hot hand compared with center Chris Kaman (five for 19) and Marcus Camby (one for seven). All told, the Clippers shot 38.8%, including 28.6% during a third quarter in which the Celtics completed their comeback from a nine-point second-quarter deficit.

Guard Rasual Butler was just about the only Clipper to display any accuracy, making six of 12 shots on the way to 17 points.

"We had a bunch of different wide-open looks that on a normal night we make," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said.

But there was little that qualified as routine Monday. Players noticed during warmups that the floor was unusually slick because warmer-than-normal weather had caused condensation from the ice beneath the hardwood.

After several players took spills in the first quarter, Boston Coach Doc Rivers walked to the far end of the court to assess the conditions and conferred with Dunleavy and the officials.

"If anybody slipped in the next two minutes," Rivers said, "the game was over."

Workers continually wiped the floor, mopping one end while the action played out on the other. Kaman tumbled to the floor in the second quarter, but the culprit was an errant Rajon Rondo foot that kicked him in the back of the leg.

"You just never see something like that," Kaman said of the conditions. "You pay these guys millions of dollars to play basketball and you want them to be in the best shape and all that and stay healthy. It's not a safe environment."

Paul Pierce scored 22 points and Rondo had 16 points and 12 assists for the Celtics, who eventually took an eight-point lead in the third quarter and sustained a fourth-quarter barrage from Clippers reserve Craig Smith.

Smith accounted for the Clippers' scoring on seven consecutive possessions during one stretch, mostly on forays to the basket that resulted in fouls on the Celtics.

"I took it upon myself to try to be aggressive on both ends and if I got the ball, just try to take it to them or make a play of some kind," Smith said.

Smith scored 11 of his 13 points in the first 7:10 of the quarter, and when Davis followed with a driving layup the Clippers trailed only 80-76 with 4:17 remaining.

But Kevin Garnett countered with a turnaround jump shot, Rondo made a free throw and the Clippers never put themselves in position for anything like the clutch play Davis turned in last month at Staples Center when his buzzer-beating jumper provided a surprising victory over the Celtics.

The Clippers fell to 0-12 on the road against teams with records of .500 or better, and 1-5 on the road on the second night of back-to-back sets. Yet there was something vaguely satisfying about a near-miss while playing without guard Eric Gordon, who sat out his third consecutive game because of a sprained big toe on his left foot.

"We just didn't shoot the ball well," Davis said. "If we play defense like we did tonight the rest of the way, then we have a really good chance of making the playoffs."

Etc.

JamesOn Curry can officially call himself an NBA player.

The guard made his debut with 3.9 seconds left in the third quarter when Dunleavy inserted him to defend Rondo on an out-of-bounds play.

"It was fun," said Curry, who recently signed a 10-day contract out of the Development League. "I was kind of staring at Ray Allen."

Curry helped hold the Celtics scoreless but did not return in the fourth quarter. He said several of his former teammates from the Springfield (Mass.) Armor of the D-League had made the nearly two-hour drive to watch the game.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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