Blake Griffin, shown battling for the ball with Boston's Ray Allen… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)
They came home from that long-and-winding journey through the wilderness and made a discovery, peeling away a layer or two:
The road had followed the Clippers home.
The Celtics grabbed Staples Center and claimed it as their own, boosted by a loud, pro-Boston crowd. Then they seized the Clippers, shook them around and rattled them in the third quarter and went on to win, 99-92, on Saturday night.
Blake Griffin had 21 points and 11 rebounds for his 50th double-double of the season, guard Randy Foye scored 32 and Chris Kaman had his best offensive output since returning from his lingering ankle injury, playing nearly 27 minutes. Kaman was eight for 12 from the field for 16 points but went scoreless in the third quarter.
This was their fourth consecutive loss coming out of the All-Star break and it mirrored many of their latest wobbles, featuring a decently played first half and horrendous third quarter.
The Clippers (21-39) had a seven-point lead at the half and promptly watched the Celtics' Paul Pierce go to work in the third quarter, in much the same way Kobe Bryant did one night before.
Bryant had 18 points in the third quarter on Friday night for the Lakers, outscoring the Clippers, who could manage only 17 themselves.
On Saturday, Pierce had 24 points, scoring 12 of them in the third quarter as the Celtics opened the third on a 14-4 run. At least this was a moderate improvement over Friday: The Clippers put up a whopping 21 points in the third quarter.
They were without their newest players, Mo Williams and Jamario Moon, and the waiting game continued for the Clippers two days after their trade-deadline deal with the Cavaliers.
Williams and Moon were not able to play because the trade has not been officially completed.
The holdup was because of pending results of the physical of Baron Davis, who was moved to the Cavaliers along with a first-round draft choice.
There was a school of thought that the deal would go through even if Davis failed the physical, that the Cavaliers were more concerned with this June's draft pick and were aware of his knee issues when they agreed to the deal.
Williams and Moon got to Los Angeles on Thursday night in time to have dinner with Coach Vinny Del Negro and Neil Olshey, vice president of basketball operations.
Davis arrived in Cleveland on Saturday afternoon and had the physical, including an MRI exam on his ailing left knee.
"It's a Saturday evening in Cleveland," Olshey said. "I don't think the MRI technicians are standing around. They [the Cavaliers] have until tomorrow at 5 and they're not playing tonight. So I don't think they're in any great rush.."
Still, the Cavaliers do practice at a complex called the Cleveland Clinic. It's not as if they have to wait in line for an MRI machine.
The Clippers, however, do seem to get their MRIs back in record time.
"Unfortunately, we've had far too many reasons to use MRIs lately," Olshey said. "There's a lot of repeat business there they don't want to lose. We take MRIs like we take showers."
Gordon on hold
Shooting guard Eric Gordon, who has been out because of an injured right wrist, is going to be sidelined even longer. The Clippers had thought he might return Monday at Sacramento, but Gordon is thinking it might be Wednesday against Houston or Saturday at home against Denver.
"Right now, I can't even shoot a three-point shot," Gordon said, adding that he can't make mid-range jumpers either.