LOS ANGELES — The Clippers clawed back from a 7-point deficit with just over two minutes left in regulation and then grabbed a 107-104 overtime victory in a wild game on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
With 2:21 left in regulation, Montrezl Harrell accidentally tipped a Marcus Smart lob into the hoop, giving Boston a 94-87 lead. But the Clippers clawed back with a 10-0 run to take a 97-94 lead.
After two free throws by Lou Williams, though, Tatum made a devastating step-back move that left Paul George on the ground, and his 3-pointer tied the score at 97 with 13.1 seconds left. Kawhi Leonard’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was no good, sending the game to overtime.
After Tatum gave the Celtics a 2-point lead, the Clippers answered with 3-pointers by Paul George and Patrick Beverley. Then Brad Stevens, seemingly upset about the lack of a foul call at the other end, picked up a rare technical foul, and Los Angeles stretched its lead to 5.
The Celtics closed within 2 and had several chances to tie or take the lead, but they were unable. And with 43.4 seconds left, Beverley hit another 3 to make it 107-102.
A dunk by Tatum off an inbounds pass pulled the Celtics within 3 with 34.9 seconds left. Then Smart knocked the ball away from Leonard and knocked it off him, giving Boston another chance. Tatum missed a 3-pointer and the Celtics corralled an offensive rebound before Beverley committed a foul with 1.6 seconds left, but Walker’s 3-pointer from the left corner was blocked by Leonard.
Observations from the night:
■ Tatum may have stepped on George’s foot, causing him to fall down on that 3-pointer, but it was a filthy moment nonetheless.
■ Also, Smart’s defensive play on Leonard was incredible. He swarmed the All-Star near the baseline, knocked the ball away, and then as he was falling out of bounds, sprawled across the floor and whipped it off of Leonard, giving Boston possession.
■ Walker was scuffling through a challenging night. When he got into the paint he struggled to get good shots off against the Clippers’ bigs, he whipped a few uncharacteristically wayward passes, and his shot seemed off. But Walker has shown this year that he does not get discouraged by uneasy spurts. In this case, he drilled a pair of 3-pointers over a two-minute span midway through the fourth, the second making it 86-76 Celtics.
■ Theis had a really solid all-around game, finishing with 14 rebounds and 8 points. He was especially effective on the offensive glass, where he consistently used his length to tap the ball out to his teammates. One at the start of the fourth quarter led to a big 3-pointer by Jaylen Brown.
■ After the Clippers fell behind, 86-76, the Clippers needed just 1:18 to unspool an 8-0 run. But the Celtics called timeout and were not fazed. Smart made a layup, chased down a long outlet pass and fed Brown for a dunk, and then hit a floater to help stretch the lead back to 92-86.
■ This is not a typo: The Celtics missed their first 16 3-point attempts. Brad Wanamaker finally ended the drought when the Clippers came out a timeout in a zone defense late in the second quarter.
This is also not a typo: Despite going 1 for 18 from beyond the 3-point line in the first half, the Celtics held a 42-40 lead at the break. How? They forced 13 turnovers, grabbed eight offensive rebounds and held a 32-14 edge in points in the paint.
■ So, naturally, the Celtics started the second half by making five 3-pointers in a row. Tatum hit three of them, the last a nasty stepback from the top of the key that made the crowd here gasp. Tatum had 14 points in the third quarter, and he looked like an All-Star as Boston stretched its lead to 75-69.
■ The Celtics had another slow offensive start, this time going scoreless for the game’s first 3 minutes, 20 seconds before Walker ended the drought with a layup.
■ Before the game, Stevens made it sound as if he might roll with his starters a bit longer than usual, especially considering the Clippers have such a dangerous bench group highlighted by Harrell and Lou Williams.
■ Amid the messy offensive first half, Enes Kanter had some promising moments. He’s the best finisher among the bigs, and he has a knack for keeping offensive rebounds alive, even when they don’t come to him. He led the Celtics with 8 points and 5 rebounds in the first half.
There were several grisly offensive moments, but a second-quarter stretch by Tatum was surely one he would like to forget. After he missed a pair of open 3-pointers he went with a mid-range try, and it wasn’t close. So he did well to attack and get to the rim, but that shot missed badly, too.
■ Despite the offensive struggles, the defense was active and aware, and it was spearheaded—unsurprisingly—by Smart. Sometimes it’s worth ignoring the ball and just watching Smart on defense. He hounded Kawhi Leonard throughout the first half. With Boston leading by 6 points at the start of the fourth, Smart knocked the ball off of Leonard on the first possession and let out a roar afterward.
■ In the first half Boston’s starters were just 9 for 33 and the reserves were 9 for 16.
■ As usual when the Celtics face the Clippers at Staples Center, there was a big Celtics fan presence. UFC’s Dana White was among those decked out in green. The road Celtics fans must be a new experience for point guard Kemba Walker. Charlotte has a good home fan base but it’s simply not prominent on the road.
■ Speaking of the crowd, the volume of the pregame introduction cheers for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George—in their first game together as Clippers no less—was embarrassing.