The Clippers didn’t exactly limp into the All-Star break, but they did stumble over themselves a bit. A 139-134 loss to the Boston Celtics in overtime Wednesday night at TD Garden prevented them from completing their trip with a fourth victory in four games. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. The Clippers lost after twice being in position to win. They gave up too many rebounds, missed too many free throws and didn’t play enough defense. Marcus Smart grabbed a key offensive rebound late in regulation with the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan on the bench and the Clippers uncharacteristically missed five of 12 free throws in overtime. They also gave up points to the Celtics on nearly every possession. “For two great defensive teams,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said, “I don’t know what happened. The night before All-Star break, I think our defenses went on break.”
2. Chris Paul playing the entire second half and all of overtime wasn’t enough. He tried to gut it out with backup guard Austin Rivers sidelined by a broken hand and J.J. Redick and Lance Stephenson each being briefly sidelined by rolled ankles. Paul was spectacular until late in the game, when his heavy minutes robbed him of his usual effectiveness. He did not score over the final 8:48 of regulation and missed two free throws in overtime, rendering his 35 points, 13 assists and three steals largely meaningless. The number that stood out most: Paul’s 47 minutes. “After a while you’re just like, man, win the game,” Paul said. “There isn’t a point in playing all these minutes if you don’t win.”
3. Injuries became an issue for the Clippers again. An already thin guard corps was down to its nub after Redick and Stephenson hurt their ankles, though both were eventually cleared to return. Doc Rivers was also reluctant to use backup guard Pablo Prigioni in the second half, leading to Paul’s heavy usage. “I should have taken him out,” Rivers said. “That’s too many minutes. He had it going so well he wanted to stay in, so I just left him in the game.” Rivers acknowledged needing to find some other way of playing than asking Paul to continually remain on the floor, meaning the Clippers could try to add another backup point guard after the All-Star break.
4. Doc Rivers was broken up by something besides the loss afterward. His close friend Monty Williams, the Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach who was also previously head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, lost his wife, Ingrid, on Wednesday to injuries suffered in a car crash. Rivers was so emotionally overcome when informed of the news after the game that Clippers trainer Jasen Powell had to be summoned, but Rivers was fine besides being heartbroken. “I’ve known them since they were married,” Rivers said. “There’s no words. There really isn’t. I’m heartbroken, sick to death and once again it puts this stuff we do in perspective. This is awful. Obviously, our love and our support and all that, but sometimes that doesn’t seem fair. There’s no better human being in the world than Monty and Ingrid and for this to happen, sometimes you question everything and this is one of those times, for me at least.”
5. The All-Star break should refresh everyone besides Paul. Paul was one of the first Clippers out of the locker room after the game, but he wasn’t headed home for a respite. The point guard and several other team staffers were en route to a private plane that would take them to Toronto for the All-Star game on Sunday. “What break?” Paul said when asked if the break was coming at a good time for him. “You know what I mean? Go straight to All-Star and there’s two [regular-season] games Thursday after All-Star and guess what, we’re one of them. It is what it is.” Paul will be joined at All-Star weekend by Redick, who is competing in the three-point shooting contest, but not teammate Blake Griffin, who was not selected as an All-Star for the first time in his six NBA seasons after a prolonged absence caused by a quadriceps injury and a broken hand suffered in a fight. “It’s going to be weird,” Paul said. “I was thinking about that earlier. Usually, my locker’s next to his, I’ve always got somebody to talk to if you don’t want to talk to some of the other guys. It’s going to be one of my first times without a teammate.”