LOS ANGELES (AP) – Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic are still getting used to those classic green uniforms, and they’re stunned to hear fans on the road cheering them louder than the home team.
Sure, the newest Boston Celtics have plenty to learn about playing for a classic NBA franchise after getting out of Oklahoma City. They already know they’ll love playing alongside four All-Stars who take turns taking charge down the stretch.
Paul Pierce scored 24 points, Ray Allen added 22, and the Celtics rallied in the second half for their fourth victory in five games, 99-92 over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the defending Eastern Conference champions, who began integrating Green and Krstic into their lineup after acquiring them from the Thunder on Thursday in an uncommonly wrenching trade for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson.
“There was a lot of emotion for us, just like when Kendrick left here,” Green said. “But when our cheers were louder than the Clippers’ cheers out there, that’s when you realize it’s amazing to be a part of something like this.”
Krstic had nine points, six rebounds and five fouls while starting at center, and Green added seven points and one rebound in 17 minutes as a reserve. Both players acknowledged tremendous cases of nerves mixed with eagerness to jump into the thick of a playoff stretch run.
“I’m so glad just to be on the court with these guys, and then to actually play and make a contribution,” Krstic said. “I think I did OK for the first game when I didn’t even have a practice.”
Although Rajon Rondo managed just two points while taking two shots and racking up 11 assists, the Celtics’ All-Stars didn’t need much backup against the Clippers. Boston made a 24-7 run spanning halftime and hung on down the stretch, with Pierce scoring 16 points in the second half.
The Celtics sleepwalked through portions of a loss in Denver on Thursday night, their emotions still churning immediately after the trade.
“Sometimes we know how to close them,” Pierce said. “It was great for their first day, because we really didn’t have a lot of stuff for them. It’s hard, because we only had a shootaround to prepare, so it’s going to take time … but the good thing about it is that we have 25 games left, and hopefully that’s enough time to implement them into what we’re trying to do, and tonight wasn’t a bad start.”
Randy Foye scored 32 points and Blake Griffin added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers in their first home game since Feb. 2 following an 11-game road trip. The Clippers had won nine straight home games before losing to Chicago right before leaving town for nearly four weeks.
The Clippers committed 21 turnovers in their 10th loss in 12 games, but at least they’re home after what’s thought to be the second-longest road trip in NBA history while the Grammys and All-Star weekend occupied Staples Center. The game also was Los Angeles’ fourth in five brutally difficult nights out of the All-Star break, including Friday night’s loss to the Lakers.
“It’s tough playing back-to-back games, especially against the two teams that we just played,” Griffin said after consecutive games against the defending conference champions. “We have good pieces. We’ve just got to get them out there all at the same time.”
While the Celtics had their newcomers in uniform, new Clippers Mo Williams and Jamario Moon still weren’t allowed to suit up while the club finishes up the paperwork after acquiring them from Cleveland for Baron Davis, who apparently still hasn’t taken his physical for the Cavaliers. The Clippers also might get high-scoring guard Eric Gordon back from a wrist injury next week.
Chris Kaman had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, but the former All-Star center is limited to 25 minutes per game in his comeback from an ankle injury. Rookie Eric Bledsoe had another tough game while starting in Davis’ usual spot, scoring six points on 3-of-10 shooting with six assists.
“We’ve had our starters basically for three games the whole year due to injuries,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “The results aren’t what we want, but I see young guys getting experience which will pay off in the long run.”
NOTES: The Clippers are expecting Williams and Moon to be in uniform for Monday’s game at Sacramento, but they don’t know if the trade will be formalized in time for the players to practice with the team on Sunday. … Los Angeles led by 13 points in the first half before Boston’s rally spanning halftime, capped by a ferocious dunk by Garnett on an alley-oop pass from Rondo. … In the Celtics’ last visit to the Clippers on Dec. 27, 2009, Davis won it 92-90 with a fallaway jumper at the buzzer after Rondo missed two free throws in the final seconds.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)