By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics made it four wins in a row without injured guard Rajon Rondo on Sunday, hanging on for a 106-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The schedule said this was supposed to be a matchup of top guards, but Rondo is out for the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Chris Paul of the Clippers missed his seventh straight game because of a knee injury.
The two were part of trade talk when Paul was still in New Orleans but didn't want to come to Boston from New Orleans.
As for the players who did play, this was a blowout as late in the fourth quarter, when the Celtics, who have also lost rookie Jared Sullinger for the season to back surgery, led by 19 in the third quarter and 15 with 9:49 remaining.
But the Clippers, behind guards Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford, roared back. A 7-0 run grew to 15-3 and the lead was down to three with 3:18 left, but Crawford committed a huge turnover with 2:14 left.
Jason Terry hit a huge jumper with 1:09 left to end an 8:40 Boston field goal drought and make it a five-point lead, but Bledsoe's 3-pointer got it down to two.
The Clippers then had a chance to tie or go ahead, but Crawford was nailed for an offensive foul with 26.6 seconds remaining. Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left and it was over.
Crawford's 3-pointer at the buzzer was meaningless.
Pierce, who has inherited much of the ball-handling with Rondo gone, scored 22 points to lead five Celtics in double figures. Terry had 13 points and six assists off the bench, with the Boston bench scoring 52 points.
Bledsoe had 23 points and 10 assists, Blake Griffin 20 added points and 11 rebounds and Crawford had 23 points and six assists off the bench for the Clippers, who lost for the sixth time in the last eight games.
The Clippers were hit with two Flagrant-1 fouls during the game, but both were overturned on review.
Kevin Garnett, the victim of the second hit that was reversed, got a technical foul after a get-together with Griffin. As Garnett went to the bench with five fouls, he exchanged words Matt Barnes, who had hit him at the other end.
The first quarter was a dunk-fest, with the Clippers taking an early five-point lead. But the Celtics took a 33-30 lead at the end of one and then turned it on in the second quarter, when the Clippers had 10 points and nine turnovers.
Boston led by 19 points at break and the Clippers showed some life with an 8-0 run at the start of the second half. That got the lead down to 11, but the Celtics quickly got it back up to 19.
Los Angeles closed it to 13, but Leandro Barbosa hit a floater at the buzzer to make it 92-77.
NOTES: With the Clippers already missing guards cHRIS Paul and Chauncey Billups (knee/foot), Jamal Crawford, who suffered a nasal fracture Friday night in Toronto, was a game-time decision but was able to play wearing a mask. He decided to ditch the mask in the second quarter. ... Los Angeles coach Vinny Del Negro visited his hometown of Springfield, Mass., about two hours from Boston, Saturday. "The neighborhood I grew up in, the family and friends and coaches, that's what shapes you in so many ways," Del Negro told the LA Daily News. "To go back there, first as a player now as a coach, it's still a thrill. That never changes." Del Negro had to leave more than 30 tickets for family and friends Sunday. ... bLAKE Griffin, to the LA Times, on Garnett's infamous trash talking: "I never hear him talking. We never go back and forth like that. We just expect it to be a tough game." ... Celtics coach Doc Rivers picked the San Francisco 49ers to beat the Baltimore Ravens in a close Super Bowl win. "I think they are the better team, but clearly I don't know enough about football. That's why I'm here," he said. ... The Sporting News tweeted during the game that a source reported the Clippers trying to trade for Kevin Garnett, offering Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe.