LOS ANGELES (AP) — For a few minutes, Jamal Crawford made the NBA look like nothing more than schoolyard basketball.
Crawford hit three 3-pointers in 70 seconds late in the third quarter, scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, and lifted the Los Angeles Clippers to a 116-102 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night.
“I think I’m at my best whenever I’m just not thinking,” Crawford said. “I’m just relaxed. I’m just playing, just hooping. It’s just basketball. I’ve done it my whole life. I’ve always said when you’re at your best in the NBA it feels like you’re like high school because your true game comes out.”
Blake Griffin scored 26 points and Chris Paul added 23, but it was Crawford’s electric display that shook up the Celtics.
“It’s hard to stop a guy, especially a guy like him,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “He’s known for that. He can get hot real quick. When he gets hot, gets going, it’s going to be a long night for you.”
Down by as many as 13 points and still trailing 71-64, the Clippers ran off the 11 unanswered points in the final 1:41 of the third quarter. Crawford’s three 3-pointers sparked the run, the last of which put Los Angeles up 75-71 with 31 seconds left.
“Obviously he made some tremendous shots, that’s what he does,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “And then we weren’t scoring on the other end. So obviously they kind of flipped the script there at the end of the third. You know from watching the NBA, 13 is nothing when you’ve got a team like that.”
Behind Crawford, the Clippers made 23 of 37 shots in the second half (62 percent).
Up 75-74 early in the fourth, the Clippers ran off a 24-8 spurt, taking a 99-82 lead on Austin Rivers’ 3-pointer.
DeAndre Jordan added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who won their second in a row and remained 1 1/2 games behind Utah in the race for fourth place in the Western Conference.
“I thought they outplayed us in the first half,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “They were more physical. And then I thought we turned that, and we became the more physical team in the second half.”
Isaiah Thomas scored 31 points and Smart added 21 for the Celtics, who had one of their worst shooting performances of the season, shooting just 41 percent from the field after being in the high 30s most of the game.
“I don’t think our shot selection has been great for a couple of games now, but I also think they really defended us well and took some things away,” said Stevens.
Boston has lost two in a row and five of its last eight games. The Celtics remained in the second place in the Eastern Conference, three games behind Cleveland.
Celtics: With his 3-pointer with 4:24 left in the fourth quarter, Thomas eclipsed 8,000 points for his NBA career. … F Jonas Jerebko sat out the game with the flu.
Clippers: Jordan made his first free throw with 3:03 left in the second quarter, on his eighth attempt. … For 19-year vet Paul Pierce, who played his first 15 seasons in Boston and was the MVP of the 2008 NBA Finals, this was the final game against his former team. The Clippers ran a tribute video highlighting Pierce’s career midway through the first quarter, and the crowd responded with a standing ovation. Pierce plans to retire at the end of the season. He did not play in the game.
HOPEFUL ON HORFORD
Al Horford, who sat out Boston’s loss in Phoenix on Sunday, tested his sprained right elbow, sustained blocking a shot against the Lakers on Friday night, with a pregame shooting session.
“First time since (the injury),” Stevens said. “Feel like sooner rather than later he’ll be back, but I don’t want to put a specific timetable on him.”
For the Clippers, Monday night’s game sat sandwiched between a pair of back-to-backs in the Central time zone. Fresh off games in Milwaukee and Chicago on Friday and Saturday night, the Clippers play road games against Minnesota and Memphis on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
“I would have loved to have just gone straight to Minnesota from Chicago,” Doc Rivers said. “That would have made a lot of sense.”
Boston: Visit Golden State on Wednesday night. The Warriors beat the Celtics 104-88 in their only other meeting this season back on Nov. 18.
Los Angeles: The Clippers play the Timberwolves on Wednesday night in Minneapolis, looking to avenge a 104-101 loss on Jan. 19.
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