Celtics-Clippers takeaways: Ice cold 3-point shooting dooms C’s in loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics dominated the Clippers in Los Angeles with a 37-point win on Dec. 23. The Clippers returned the favor Saturday night at TD Garden.
Los Angeles, despite playing the second game of a back-to-back, became just the second team to beat the Celtics in their building this season by earning a 115-96 win.
The Clippers led by 16 at halftime and pushed their lead to as high as 36 in the third quarter on the strength of a 21-0 run. They led 91-60 entering the fourth quarter, and neither team’s starters played over the final 12 minutes.
The Celtics still have the NBA’s best record at 35-11.
They will be back in action Monday night against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Garden. Before we look ahead to that game, here are four takeaways from Celtics-Clippers.
Ice cold shooting from beyond the arc
NBA teams often live and die by the 3-point line, and it was a major reason why the Celtics lost to the Clippers.
The C’s shot 10-of-40 (25 percent) from 3-point range. Derrick White, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford combined to shoot 0-of-10 from deep, while Jrue Holiday connected on only one of his seven attempts. Jayson Tatum (2-of-4) was the only Boston starter to hit multiple 3-pointers.
The Celtics hit just one 3-pointer over the final 9:52 of the third quarter, which helped the Clippers outscore them 36-21 during the frame.
The Clippers have a lot of offensive firepower, especially when Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden are all healthy and in the lineup, which was the case Saturday. It’s difficult to beat this team if your 3-point shots aren’t falling.
The Celtics entered Saturday ranked No. 1 in 3-point shot attempts per game (42.6) and No. 6 in 3-point shooting percentage (38.6). The C’s are 31-2 this season when they shoot at least 32 percent from 3-point range, and they’re now 4-9 when they fall below 32 percent.
Kawhi Leonard puts on a show
Leonard is still one of the league’s best players, and that was quite evident Saturday night.
He led all scorers with 26 points on an efficient 10-of-15 shooting, along with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 29 minutes. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter given the lopsided score.
Leonard’s most impressive play came in the third quarter when he attacked the basket and threw down a powerful dunk over C’s center Luke Kornet.
Leonard has missed a lot of games due to injuries and load management since joining the Clippers in the summer of 2019. But when healthy, he’s still a top-10 player and a two-way force. Leonard is averaging 23.5 points per game while shooting a career high in both field goal percentage (52.2) and 3-point percentage (44.4).
Celtics starters play their worst game of the season
The Celtics had one of the best shooting nights in league history Thursday against the Miami Heat, led by an excellent performance from their starting lineup. All five starters scored at least 15 points in that victory.
The opposite scenario unfolded versus the Clippers.
C’s starters combined to score just 38 points — their lowest total of the season. Tatum led the way with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He also crossed the 11,000-point mark for his career.
The other four starters — Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Derrick White and Jrue Holiday — combined to score 17 points on 5-of-37 shooting. Horford (0-of-5) and White (0-of-8) missed every shot they attempted.
The Celtics entered Saturday ranked No. 1 in the league in points per game by starters (92.8), so it was pretty shocking to see this group struggle so much against a good-but-not-elite Clippers defense.
Theis played very well against his former Celtics teammates.
He scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting, along with seven rebounds, two blocks, two assists and one steal in 26 minutes.
Theis’ most impressive play came in the second quarter when he emphatically rejected Derrick White at the rim, which led to a James Harden layup at the other end of the floor to increase the Clippers’ lead to 15.
The Clippers acquired Theis as a free agent on Nov. 15 after he was bought out by the Indiana Pacers. They have a 26-7 record with Theis in the lineup.