June 16, 2024

Given a microphone Saturday afternoon before tipoff against Boston, Clippers wing Terance Mann began to deliver the team’s customary pre-holiday message to fans when he ad-libbed the script.

“There’s a lot of green in here,” Mann said, drawing a mixture of jeers and cheers. “I don’t like that.”

For the next two-plus hours during a 145-108 rout of the Clippers, it was all green on the court, too.

The Celtics dominated the Clippers from behind the arc.

They outrebounded them by 17, took nearly double the number of free throws (28 to 15), nearly tripled their second-chance points (23 to 8) and committed fewer turnovers (9 to 10).

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said before tipoff that he didn’t consider the day’s matchup against Boston, with its record tying for the league’s best, as a measuring stick of his own team. Yet even viewed in a vacuum, this was as lopsided a loss as the Clippers experienced all season.

The Clippers (17-12) could have pointed to their other disadvantages — that Boston played with an extra day of rest, and that Kawhi Leonard missed his second consecutive game because of a hip contusion that Lue again classified as “day to day.”

Yet Boston (22-6) was without key starter Kristaps Porzingis. And with the Clippers trailing by as many as 39 points, there was little doubt which team was the class of its conference, the other with work to do to enter such a conversation. The Celtics made 25 of their 53 three-pointers, a stunning volume for even a team that takes three-pointers more often than any other.

Paul George scored a team-high 21 points for the Clippers, Ivica Zubac had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and James Harden finished with 14 points and nine assists. Daniel Theis had 15 points and Russell Westbrook 12 off the bench. But none of it could compare to Boston’s superiority.

Jayson Tatum had 30 points and Jaylen Brown scored 24 as few starters for either team played in the fourth quarter. Celtics guard Derrick White showed why he is one of the league’s best defenders by blocking three shots to go with 18 points.

Playing from behind almost immediately after scoring their fewest points in an opening quarter since Dec. 6, the Clippers’ deficit grew to 16 quickly in the quarter when they continued to struggle grabbing rebounds to extend their own possessions or end those of Boston. Before the Clippers scored their first points off a second-chance opportunity, Boston already had 10. Seven of the game’s first eight offensive rebounds went to Boston.

Then there was the issue of Tatum. He spun past rookie forward Kobe Brown — playing his first true rotation minutes in three games — for a vicious one-handed dunk in the first quarter, then drew a four-point play on Brown in the second. His teammate, Norman Powell, pulled aside Brown during the ensuing timeout break to talk about guarding Tatum’s step-back move. Tatum had 21 points at halftime. The Clippers’ stingy defense had gone nearly a month without allowing a 40-point quarter — on Saturday, it happened for a second consecutive game.

Yet the high volume of three-pointers that fueled Tatum’s big half — eight three-point attempts and five makes — were no outlier. This season, teams on average take 34.9 three-pointers and make 12.8 of them every game; the Celtics eclipsed or came close to passing those marks by halftime, by making 15 of their first 33 three-pointers. And the Celtics reached their league-leading season average for three-point attempts by the end of the third quarter.

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