Celtics squander 28-point lead to Clippers after losing Kyrie Irving to knee injury

Ben WeinribYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
The <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/boston/" data-ylk="slk:Celtics">Celtics</a> were outscored by 31 points after <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4840/" data-ylk="slk:Kyrie Irving">Kyrie Irving</a> left the game in the second quarter with a right knee sprain. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
The Celtics were outscored by 31 points after Kyrie Irving left the game in the second quarter with a right knee sprain. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Forget the World Series and the Super Bowl, Los Angeles sports owns Boston.

Two days after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on a buzzer-beater, the Boston Celtics dropped another tough game at home to an LA team. This time, they blew a 28-point first-half lead to lose to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, 123-112.

Adding insult to injury — or maybe injury to insult — the Celtics lost Kyrie Irving to a right knee sprain in the second quarter, and the All-Star point guard did not return.

The Celtics ran up a 68-40 lead with just over four minutes left second quarter thanks to 14 points from Irving and another 12 points off the bench from Gordon Hayward. Just moments later, however, Irving came up limping when trying to run around a pick on defense.

Irving stayed in the game for two more minutes before exiting, although the Clippers scored eight unanswered points during that stretch, while Irving missed a driving layup. Even after Irving’s exit, the Clippers outscored the Celtics 75-44 and stifled Boston on defense. The Celtics only scored 12 points in the third and 26 in the fourth while coughing up 42 fourth quarter points.

Recently acquired Landry Shamet poured on the offense for the Clippers in the final quarter, as the rookie went 4-for-4 beyond the arc and scored 13 of his 17 points. He was one of eight Clippers in double digits, including all five starters, and Montrezl Harrell led the way with 21 off the bench.

The Celtics’ stumble comes at a bad time

This isn’t the first time all season that the Celtics have dropped back-to-back games, but it certainly comes at a tough time. Rumors have been swirling about Irving potentially leaving this summer after previously promising to re-sign. The Lakers and Clippers are two of the teams most closely tied to Irving, so it can’t help that the Celtics lost to them while he’s still playing on the Celtics.

Furthermore, every win is key at this juncture of the season. The four Eastern Conference teams ahead of the Celtics made major upgrades at or after the trade deadline: Nikola Mirotic for the Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Gasol for the Toronto Raptors, Wes Matthews for the Indiana Pacers and Tobias Harris for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics may yet make an addition on the buyout market — perhaps Marcus Morris’ twin Markieff or Enes Kanter — but they cannot afford to lose Irving for an extended period of time. Home court advantage at least through the first round will be crucial to a long playoff run and any shot at convincing Irving to stay.

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