BOSTON (AP) — Paul Pierce scored 22 points and the Boston Celtics held off a late comeback to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 106-104 on Sunday and improve to 4-0 since losing Rajon Rondo for the season.
The Clippers had pulled within 103-101 on a 3-pointer by Eric Bledsoe with 56 seconds remaining. But Avery Bradley drew an offensive foul on Los Angeles’ Jamal Crawford with 26 seconds to go, and Pierce held on to the ball before making a 3-pointer with 2.5 second left to clinch the win.
The teams played without the point guards voted starters in the All-Star game in Houston on Feb. 17 — the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Rondo.
Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa scored 14 points each for the Celtics. The Clippers were led by Bledsoe, replacing Paul, and Crawford, who made a 3-pointer at the buzzer, with 23 each.
It was the Celtics’ fourth game since Rondo tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Paul sat out his seventh in a row with a bruised right kneecap. The Clippers have lost five of those, including their biggest setback and lowest scoring game of the season, 98-73 at Toronto on Friday night.
The Celtics also are missing rookie forward Jared Sullinger after Friday’s season-ending back surgery.
The Clippers trailed by 15 early in the fourth quarter. Then Blake Griffin’s free throw began a 15-3 run capped by Crawford’s layup that closed the gap to 101-98 with 3:18 remaining.
Jason Terry put Boston up by five points when he beat the 24-second buzzer with a jumper with 1:09 left before Bledsoe made his 3-pointer.
The first half was one of the best of the season for the Celtics, and they headed to the locker room with a 59-40 lead.
They tied their season highs of 33 points after one quarter and 59 after two. And they did it with balanced offense, as 10 players scored between three and nine points.
They had 14 assists on their 20 baskets and just five turnovers in the half. On defense, they held the Clippers to 10 points on 4-for-18 shooting in the second quarter and forced 15 turnovers in the half.
The Clippers didn’t score in the second quarter until Lamar Odom made an 11-foot turnaround 4:11 into the period, cutting Boston’s lead to 39-32. Bledsoe made their second field goal more than two minutes later.
Notes: Backup Celtics center Jason Collins, playing more because of Sullinger’s absence, had a season-high seven points. … Matt Barnes returned for the Clippers after a one-game suspension for striking Minnesota’s Greg Stiemsma on Wednesday. … The Clippers routed the Celtics 106-77 on Dec. 27 in Los Angeles.