A regrettable end for Clippers against Celtics

If only he had taken Chris Paul out for a few minutes in the second half.

If only he had left DeAndre Jordan in to man the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter.

If only he could have found a way to get his team to play some defense at any point.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers probably has a few regrets after his team sagged into the All-Star break Wednesday night at TD Garden with a 139-134 overtime loss to the Boston Celtics.

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The Clippers gave up a five-point advantage in the final minute of regulation and a six-point cushion in overtime amid a hail of missed free throws and Celtics rebounds.

Paul played the entire second half and all of the overtime, finishing with 35 points, 13 assists and three steals in a season-high 47 minutes. But the heavy usage sapped his usual crisp play late in the game as he did not score in the final 8:48 of regulation and missed two free throws in overtime

“I really didn't have a place to turn,” Rivers said, alluding to an injury to Austin Rivers and rolled ankles that briefly sidelined J.J. Redick and Lance Stephenson, “so I just left him in. But I thought at the end of the day that might have hurt us.”

Paul wasn't the only Clipper left with wobbly legs. Jamal Crawford and Redick, two of the NBA's top free-throw shooters, each also missed from the line in overtime.

“We were going to have D.J. shoot the techs at some point,” Rivers said of his center, who made nine of 17 free throws on the way to 21 points and 16 rebounds. “I mean, my God, he was the best free-throw shooter down the stretch.”

Collectively, the Clippers missed five of 12 free throws in overtime and were even worse on defense, giving up points on seven of the Celtics' 10 possessions. Reserve Boston guard Evan Turner, of all people, scored three consecutive baskets to give the Celtics a 137-134 lead with 58 seconds left.

The Clippers had two chances to tie, but three-pointers by Paul Pierce and Crawford missed, resulting in a down ending to a trip in which the team won three of four games.

There was also an unfortunate decision to remove Jordan from the game with 56 seconds left in regulation and the Clippers leading, 120-117. Rivers was afraid a Boston player would intentionally jump on Jordan's back at the free-throw line with Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shooting a free throw.

But Thomas missed and Boston's Marcus Smart grabbed the rebound before being fouled by Wesley Johnson. Smart made one of two free throws and Thomas eventually forced overtime with a jumper with 5.8 seconds left.

“It was tough,” Jordan said of momentarily being out of the game, “but I'm going to live and die with Doc's decisions.”

Thomas finished with 35 points, an excellent showing in front of his former mentor Paul, who twice hosted the younger player at his summer camp.

“I'm probably one of Isaiah's biggest fans,” Paul said of the first-time All-Star.

Paul was certainly less enamored with the way the Clippers have increased his minutes. He has played 35, 34, 39 and 47 minutes over the last four games — a heavy uptick over his season average of 32.7 minutes — and has also defended the opposing team's top guard, an assignment usually reserved for Rivers.

Doc Rivers said his team needed to find an alternative to this strategy, with one option being the addition of a point guard after the break. Just one more thing for Rivers to ponder in the coming days.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 11, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "A regrettable end for Clippers - Things don't go L.A.'s way down the stretch, as Celtics pull out victory in overtime. - BOSTON 139 CLIPPERS 134 (OT)" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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