LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Boston Celtics refused to panic, even as the Eastern Conference leaders were staring at a four-game losing streak.
One night after falling to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers, they returned to Staples Center to remind everyone why they’re among the NBA’s best at 35-14.
The Celtics’ defense hounded the Clippers all night, forcing 19 turnovers and holding them to 44.3 percent shooting in a 113-102 victory on Wednesday night.
“This is a hard league,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “You’re going to have your ups and downs. We were really fortunate to win 16 games in a row earlier this year. We could have lost about 11 of them. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t.”
They were back to going the Celtics’ way Wednesday night.
“They do a good job defending, but we got some good shots, some wide-open shots, and just missed,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.
Griffin led all scorers with 23 points, but after the first quarter, the Celtics forced him to settle for the outside shot. Griffin was just 1 of 7 from 3-point range.
The Celtics countered with five players scoring in double-figures, led by Kyrie Irving’s 20 points and Jayson Tatum’s 18.
“Our guys, for the first time in a while, got a little disbanded by their ball movement and attack,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They have so many athletes, they really like targeting some of our guys with footspeed.”
Terry Rozier added 15 points off the bench for Boston, and Marcus Morris also had 15.
“It felt like we were getting a lot from a lot of people,” Stevens said. “Offensively, this was one of our better games. The way we moved the ball and shared. That was encouraging.”
The Celtics made 14 3-pointers, though it took them 40 attempts. Irving also led the team in assists (seven) and tied for the lead in rebounds (eight).
Celtics: C Al Horford hit his head in a loose-ball scramble in the closing seconds against the Lakers on Tuesday, but the team said he did not suffer a concussion. Horford, who has had concussions in the past, was held out against the Clippers as a precaution. … G Marcus Smart was also out after cutting his hand on broken glass at the team hotel Wednesday and needing stitches. The team said it is investigating the incident.
Clippers: C DeAndre Jordan returned after missing five games with a left ankle sprain. By playing Wednesday, he tied Randy Smith (715) for most games played in team history. … F Danilo Gallinari said his glute injury is improving, but there is still no timetable for his return. He has not played since Dec. 9th, and has played in only two games since Nov. 5th.
Jordan finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, playing 31 minutes.
“I thought he looked OK,” Rivers said. “I didn’t think he was explosive. He had a couple of dunks, but you could see he was ready to play, but he clearly wasn’t 100 percent.
“He didn’t roll a lot tonight, which is part of our offensive package. He didn’t get behind the defense a lot tonight, but I was happy to have him on the floor.”
Stevens was pleased with the way the Celtics battled the Clippers inside. Despite missing Horford, they outrebounded Los Angeles 47-40.
“Defensively, I thought we did as good a job as we could holding our ground,” he said. “It was good we battled the way we did. We needed to. We didn’t do enough the last couple of games.”
Celtics: Play the third of their four-game trip Saturday at Golden State.
Clippers: Opens a two-game road trip Friday in Memphis.
More AP NBA: www.apnews.com/tags/NBAbasketball