Zach Randolph helps Clippers stun Celtics
The extras stepped out of the large shadow cast by their co-tenants, the Lakers.
The Clippers will always have this one special night in February in which they crafted a memorable upset against the Boston Celtics, beating the defending NBA champions, 93-91, at Staples Center on Wednesday.
It was wild. It was emotional. There was heated smacking and shoving -- Mardy Collins and Paul Pierce on the verge of throwing down -- bringing the Clippers coaches off the bench late in the game.
When Collins’ six-foot jumper fell short, Zach Randolph was there to collect the rebound and give the Clippers a 92-91 lead with 19.4 seconds to play.
If it seemed as though Randolph was on the court almost the whole night, well, he practically was. He scored 30 points and added 12 rebounds in a game-high 43-plus minutes.
“It’s a big game for us,” Randolph said. “Everybody knows that. Guys stepped up. Everybody played big tonight.”
No bigger than Randolph.
“It takes a tough guy to finish and he did that a lot. He came up with some big hoops,” Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said.
Said the Clippers’ Baron Davis, who had 16 points and seven rebounds before fouling out: “We haven’t beaten one of the top teams in the league yet, so this is something to build on.
“It’s definitely a good victory for us and we’re starting to get everybody healthy. Overall our defensive intensity was good. We forced them into a lot of turnovers.”
That was an understatement.
The Celtics were error-riddled all night, getting pushed around in the paint and found themselves bedeviled by turnovers, committing 21 to the Clippers’ 13.
For Boston, this was supposed to be an early look at a future work site, right?
Nevermind that the defending champions (now 46-13) were doing so about, oh, three-plus months ahead of time.
And never mind that one element at the Staples Center workplace -- the potential opponents -- will be drastically different. So, it’s not a wild assumption that the Lakers and Celtics could be staging a repeat of last year’s Finals.
The Clippers, winning their second in a row, were supposed to be stand-ins, at best. But they simply wouldn’t go away, not when trailing by nine in the fourth quarter and not when they faced more of their usual injury-induced adversity.
They beat Boston without one of their best young players, Al Thornton (injured right foot), for the entire game and were missing their star rookie guard, Eric Gordon, for most of the second half.
Gordon suffered an injured left shoulder less than four minutes into the third quarter and did not return. X-rays were negative.
Said Randolph: “It was a hard-fought game. It felt good to get a win over the world champion, it’s something to build on.”
Pierce left the game briefly in the third quarter after dislocating his right thumb. He returned with tape on it before the period ended.
It was all about a certain Mr. Marbury before the game. The soon-to-be Celtic was the dominant topic in the Celtics’ locker room and the Clippers were interested in talking about the potential impact of Stephon Marbury.
The Clippers’ Fred Jones spent plenty of time around Marbury last season in New York with the Knicks, not that they were close buddies.
“They’re looking for their future,” Jones said of the Celtics. “It’s not about today. It’s about the future.”
Does the reward outweigh the risk of the possibility of a major disruption?
“The guys they have in their locker room police their locker room,” Jones said. “I don’t think it’s a big risk because of the salary.”
Heads turned when Sam Cassell, the popular former Clipper and ex-Celtic, strolled in during the first half.
He sat behind one of the baskets for a few minutes and then moved next to the Clippers bench and exchanged pleasantries.
Cassell was his usual obliging self, being interviewed in the second quarter by Prime Ticket about his immediate plans and ones in the not-so-distant future. Is he done, as a player? “I don’t know,” he said. “If it is done, I had a hell of a run. . . . I beat the odds.”