Clippers catch fire in second half and fend off late rally to beat skidding Celtics
Blake Griffin had 26 points to lead the Clippers over the Celtics. AP

THE Los Angeles Clippers scorched hot after a sluggish first half and held on to beat the skidding Boston Celtics, 116-102, at the Staples Center on Monday (Tuesday, Manila time).

Jamal Crawford’s 29-foot jumper capped a 22-5 blitz to close out the third quarter with a 75-71 lead after trailing by as much as 13 in the period. Then four straight easy baskets by DeAndre Jordan put the Clippers up by 16 after a 12-1 run midway through the fourth.

The Celtics, behind Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, refused to go down without a fight as they cut the lead down to nine, 111-102, with 47 seconds left. But it was a little too late as the Clippers sank crucial free throws to hold on to the win.

After scoring just 43 in the first two quarters, the Clippers heated up with 32 and 41 points in the third and fourth periods, respectively, to pull away from the Celtics, who managed a total of 56 points after the break.

Blake Griffin had 26 points to lead the Clippers, winners of two straight games to move to 38-25. Chris Paul added 23 markers, while Crawford had 19 off the bench.

Thomas led all scorers with 32, 10 in the fourth, but could not prevent the Celtics from losing two in a row and falling to 40-24. Smart added 21 off the Boston bench. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @spinph