Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Kemba Walker scored 25 points en route to hitting 6-of-12 three-pointers as the Boston Celtics earned a 117-112 home win over the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers.
Both teams played well offensively. The C’s shot 48.8 percent from the field and made 16-of-32 three-pointers, and the Clippers made 49.4 percent of their field goals while going 18-of-38 from deep. L.A. committed just nine turnovers, while Boston had eight.
A 9-0 Celtics run proved to be the difference, however. It began with a Robert Williams’ alley-oop dunk.
That bucket eventually led to seven straight Jayson Tatum points, leading to a 111-100 advantage with 4: 23 left in regulation.
The Clippers chopped away at the lead and cut the deficit to 114-112 with 10.9 seconds remaining following a Paul George corner three-pointer.
However, Celtics big man Daniel Theis nailed two free throws to put Boston up four, and the Clips’ next possession resulted George missing a three-pointer. Walker hit 1-of-2 free throws to end the scoring.
Jaylen Brown added 18 points, and Tatum and Payton Pritchard pitched in 14 apiece for Boston.
Reggie Jackson started in place of Leonard, who was originally in the starting lineup before becoming a late scratch. Jackson finished with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting (5-of-6 from three-point range). Paul George led all scorers with 32 points.
The 18-17 C’s have won three straight, and the 24-13 Clippers have lost three of their last four games.
Clippers F Paul George: 32 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
Clippers G Reggie Jackson: 25 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds
Clippers G Lou Williams: 12 points, 4 assists
Clippers C Ivica Zubac: 8 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists
Celtics G Kemba Walker: 25 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds
Celtics G/F Jaylen Brown: 18 points, 5 rebounds
Celtics F Jayson Tatum: 14 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
Celtics C Robert Williams: 13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks
Walker’s Resurgence Continues, and C’s Win Again
Walker shot 4-of-20 from the field in a 100-91 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 7 and followed that up by going 2-of-12 in a 122-108 defeat to the Utah Jazz on Feb. 9.
The loss to the Jazz dropped Boston to a 12-11 record, a startling mark considering the team’s Eastern Conference Finals run last year.
One day after the Jazz game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens spoke about Walker’s struggles and noted that his improvement was the key to Boston turning things around.
That appears to be the case now.
Walker has averaged 26.0 points per game in his last three matchups, all of which ended in Boston wins. He’s shot 45.4 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from three-point range while averaging 6.7 assists.
The former UConn star was excellent Tuesday and got things going with this slick pass to Theis for two:
Walker later helped the C’s keep pace with the Clippers thanks to back-to-back three-pointers:
Boston is simply a better team when Walker is getting buckets, as it’s 7-2 when the point guard scores 21 or more points. Walker did a little better than that with a team-high 25, a much-needed performance against a Clippers team that refused to bow out until the final buzzer.
Walker scored 17.3 points on 37.5 percent shooting over his first 16 games. The C’s went 6-10 during that span as the point guard struggled after missing the first 11 games of the season to undergo a 12-week strengthening program for his left knee.
However, it appears the 10-year veteran has made a dramatic turnaround of late, and it coincides with the Celtics’ improvement on the court.
George, Jackson Nearly Will Shorthanded Clippers to Win
The Clippers were dealt a huge pregame blow when it was revealed that Leonard would be out for the game. That put the onus on George to provide more offensive help, and the burden was laid on starting lineup replacement Reggie Jackson as well.
L.A. was given a tough early challenge with the C’s scoring 35 first-quarter points en route to 62 at halftime, but to the Clippers’ credit, they were able to go blow for blow with Boston for nearly the entire game.
George and Jackson were the two primary reasons for that, as they combined to score more than half of the Clippers’ points.
George was cold from deep (5-of-15), but he excelled in two-point range (7-of-11). Jackson was hot all night, hitting 10-of-14 field goals and 5-of-6 three-pointers.
When they weren’t scoring, they were setting up their teammates, combining for 11 assists. George and Jackson combined to team up to give Batum a bucket:
Jackson later took care of business himself for two:
PG-13 soon followed suit en route to finishing with 21 first-half points:
The second half featured more of the Clippers’ sensational ball movement, with Jackson finishing off this sequence with a three:
Jackson and George teamed up for the Clippers’ last highlight of the game, with this George bucket cutting the Celtics’ lead to two late:
The Clippers ultimately fell just short against the Celtics, but they put forth an excellent effort considering the loss of their scoring leader right before game time.
Both teams will play on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.
The C’s will host the Toronto Raptors, and the Clippers will visit the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena.