LOS ANGELES — Before halftime, Boston and the Clippers already had combined for five technical fouls, plenty of rough contact, a few icy stare-downs and a running dialogue of trash talk.
The Celtics feel right at home in such ugly situations, and they rallied for a win that slowed their road woes.
Paul Pierce scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, Kevin Garnett added 21 points and eight rebounds, and the Celtics made an impressive late rally for a 94-85 victory over Los Angeles on Monday night.
Ray Allen scored 15 points and Rajon Rondo had 12 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who won on the road for just the second time in nine games, but only after blowing a 10-point lead in the final minutes.
Although the game was the clubs’ only meeting of the season, both came out with a noticeable physical edge to their games. The Celtics were still fuming after blowing a late lead against the Lakers one night earlier, and they took it out on Staples Center’s other tenants.
“Once we settled into this game, we were more physical and pushed back, made it uncomfortable for them,” Pierce said. “We have to do it on a more consistent basis. We have to come out and throw the first punch. … You could feel it in the atmosphere. It was a chippy game from the start.”
The game also featured wild momentum swings and one-sided rallies. The Celtics led 71-61 with 8½ minutes to play, but the Clippers responded with a 17-3 run, taking the lead on Griffin’s free throws with 4:57 left when Brandon Bass fouled out.
Boston scored the next nine points, capped by Pierce’s 3-pointer with 2:47 left, and finished a 13-2 run with Mickael Pietrus’ layup for a seven-point lead. Los Angeles got to 87-84 on Griffin’s putback dunk with 59 seconds left, but the Celtics hung on to split the first two games of an eight-game trip, their longest of the season.
“We were angry last night because we didn’t get any stops down the stretch (against the Lakers),” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “This is Lob City, and they enjoy the game. You can see when they play, they have a lot of fun, and we just had to make this game no fun. We talked about it before the game, how this can not be a joyous occasion, and has to be no fun. Our guys went out there and turned the game from a joyous occasion to a competition.”
Blake Griffin had 24 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, who have lost four of five while falling behind the Lakers atop the Pacific Division. Chris Paul had 14 points on 3-for-12 shooting in his second game wearing a clear protective mask over his broken nose.
Griffin didn’t speak to reporters after the game, while Paul was still steaming.
“I can’t stand to lose. It’s not acceptable,” Paul said. “We talked about it after the game, that everybody has got to do their part. We’re going to watch film and figure it out. There ain’t no moral victories around here. I’ve been in this league too long. You’ve got to win, or you lose. And you’ve got to play the right way.”
Griffin and Boston’s Greg Stiemsma got matching technical fouls for jostling in the first quarter, while Garnett and DeAndre Jordan traded trash talk and angry posturing before getting their own matching T’s in the second quarter. Rivers got yet another for a furious reaction to a non-call, and the Clippers took their first lead of the game moments later on Williams’ 3-pointer.
“That’s just Boston, that’s all,” said Mo Williams, who scored 21 points off the bench. “That’s their motto. Coming in, you know they’re going to be aggressive, and if you don’t match their aggressiveness, they’ll bully you. But I love games like this.”
Paul, whose nose was broken three days ago in San Antonio, combined with Caron Butler and Jordan for 9-for-35 shooting for the Clippers, who outrebounded the NBA’s worst rebounding team 45-31.
The Clippers still are off to an outstanding start to the season, but they’ll be hard-pressed to keep it up with a brutal schedule on the horizon.
They lost their second home game in two days — and their fifth in seven — during a stretch in which they’ll play six games at Staples Center in eight days. The Clippers will become the first NBA team to play 20 games in a month since the Cincinnati Royals did it in February 1967.
NOTES: The Clippers have sold out all 19 of their home games this season. … Boston F Chris Wilcox isn’t with the team while undergoing tests for a potential heart problem. The Celtics don’t have many specifics about Wilcox’s health yet. “Obviously it’s not a good situation, but we’re just hoping for the best,” Rivers said. Boston already lost Jeff Green for the season with a heart issue. … C Jermaine O’Neal also isn’t on the Celtics’ road trip after injuring his wrist. … Garnett passed Moses Malone for 11th place on the NBA’s career list in minutes played. … Fans near courtside included Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton and Los Angeles Kings forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.