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02/03/2013 5:30 PM EST
Celts now 4-0 without Rondo, top Clippers 106-104
BOSTON 106, LA CLIPPERS 104

By HOWARD ULMAN
AP Sports Writer

BOSTON (AP) -- The Celtics keep rolling without Rajon Rondo.



Not even a late comeback by one of the NBA's best teams could
keep Boston from beating the Los Angeles Clippers 106-104 on
Sunday and improve to 4-0 since a knee injury ended their star
point guard's season.



"A lot of people say that we don't have a chance to go to the
playoffs, we can't do this, we can't do that," starting guard
Avery Bradley said. "We know we have each other and we're going
to go out there and fight for each other, no matter what, every
single night."



The Clippers played without their own brilliant point guard.
Chris Paul missed his seventh straight game with a bruised right
knee cap.



But they cut a 98-83 deficit to 103-101 on a 3-pointer by Eric
Bledsoe with 56 seconds remaining. Then Bradley drew an
offensive foul on Los Angeles' Jamal Crawford with 26 seconds to
go.



Paul Pierce then held on to the ball - and was surprised that
the Clippers didn't foul him - before making a 3-pointer with
2.5 seconds left to clinch the win and finish with a team-high
22 points.



"If we get a stop there (with) three or four seconds to go,
we've got plenty of time," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said
of his decision not to foul. "If I was going to do it, I would
have fouled Courtney Lee early right when he got the ball."



But he didn't want to foul Pierce, an accurate shooter down the
stretch whether from the field or the free throw line.



"Any time the game's on the line, whether he missed 15 in a row,
we know the last one's good," Celtics guard Jason Terry said.



The teams played without the point guards voted starters in the
All-Star game in Houston on Feb. 17. Rondo has a torn anterior
cruciate ligament in his right knee. With Paul sidelined, the
Clippers have lost five of seven games, including their biggest
setback and lowest scoring game of the season, 98-73 at Toronto
on Friday night.



"We're just a little out of rhythm," Los Angeles forward Matt
Barnes said. "Guys are just playing a little out of position,
but that's no excuse."



The Celtics also are missing rookie forward Jared Sullinger
after he had season-ending back surgery Friday.



But they moved within 1 1-2 games of the Milwaukee Bucks for
seventh place in the East and 3 1-2 ahead of the Philadelphia
76ers for the final playoff spot in the conference.



Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa scored 14 points each for the
Celtics and led a 52-point contribution from the bench. The
Clippers were led by Bledsoe, replacing Paul, and Crawford, who
made a 3-pointer at the buzzer, with 23 points each. Blake
Griffin had 20 points and 11 rebounds.



Without Rondo, the Celtics were encouraged by coach Doc Rivers
to take the open shot or move the ball quickly when they don't
have it. That prevents opposing defenses from double teaming the
ball handler.



"We beat a heck of a team and I'm very happy with that," Rivers
said, "but in my mind we can be better, much better, than we
were today."



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.



"We're playing good in spurts right now," Pierce said. "We got
stagnant at times. We didn't defend at a high level in the
second half. ... A win's a win, but we made it a lot more
difficult than we thought it should have been."



Trailing 98-83, the Clippers began a 15-3 run with Griffin's
free with 9:39 to play. Crawford's layup made it 101-98 with
3:18 remaining.



Terry then put Boston up by five when he beat the 24-second
buzzer with a jumper with 1:09 left before Bledsoe made his
3-pointer.



Then Bradley took the charge.



"Jamal's a great player," he said. "I just tried to make it as
hard as possible on him."



And Pierce hit his big 3-pointer.



"They were the aggressors and that's what we do to teams when we
are the most successful," Crawford said. "They did that
tonight."



The Celtics 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 C Jason Collins, playing more because of
Sullinger's absence, had a season-high seven points. ... 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.

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