“If I was a coach, I’d leave me open all the time,” Beverley said. Williams scored 27 points, George added 25 and Leonard had 17 for the Clippers, who improved to 9-1 at home after rallying from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
In their first season with Los Angeles, injury and rehab had prevented Leonard and George from playing alongside each other for the first 14 games. “It’s still tough,” said Leonard, who missed the previous three games with a sore knee. “We’re both on kind of minute restrictions so it’s hard to get a flow.”
George said he and Leonard are trying to get in sync with their other teammates. “We’re going to have growing pains,” he said. “The great thing about myself and Kawhi is it doesn’t matter, we’re going to play basketball. Try to make the right plays and play off each other and just keep the game flowing. I thought in that aspect we were good.”
It was a wild and sloppy game for both teams. The Clippers committed 23 turnovers (Williams had seven while Leonard and George had five each) to 17 for the Celtics. “That was an ugly win, but it was beautiful,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
Leonard blocked Kemba Walker’s potential tying 3-point attempt in the left corner. “He got enough separation to get it off against most of the league,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “The problem is, that guy’s not normal. He’s not most of the league, and he made a great play to block it.”
In overtime, George hit a 3-pointer after he missed his first attempt and Beverley got the offensive rebound, then George fed Beverley for a 3 of his own. George’s free throw on a technical foul against Stevens completed a run of seven straight points, and the Clippers led 104-99.
“He literally singlehandedly willed that game with his effort, rebounding, making plays,” Rivers said of Beverley, who got the game ball. “He’s a tough kid.” The Celtics pulled to 104-102 on Jayson Tatum’s basket after a wild sequence in which bodies crashed to the floor as both teams chased a loose ball before Boston got possession.
“Defensive mistakes, costly turnovers,” Tatum said. “If we would have won it still would have been a learning experience.” Beverley hit a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Clippers’ bench for 107-102 lead, revving up Los Angeles fans and quieting the large contingent of Celtics fans in the stands.
“It was a playoff atmosphere,” said Marcus Smart, who had 14 points for Boston. Tatum’s basket left the Celtics down by three. Walker, who had 13 points, got free in the corner for the last shot but Leonard leaped to deflect it.
Tatum led the Celtics with 30 points and Brad Wanamaker added 14. Williams hit a go-ahead 3 with 31 seconds remaining in regulation. With the crowd on its feet shouting “Defense! Defense!” Williams stole the ball at the other end and got fouled, making both for a 97-94 lead.
After a timeout, Tatum hit a 3-pointer with George falling down defending him to tie it 97-all with 13 seconds left. Leonard’s potential game-winning 3 rattled in and out as regulation ended. “We’ve got some kinks to work out,” Williams said. “Just understanding what everybody brings to the table.”
The Celtics led by 10 early in the fourth but got outscored 13-7 over the final 3:16. Boston missed 17 of 18 3-pointers in the first half. The Celtics then made seven 3s in the third quarter, with Tatum hitting four, to go into the fourth leading 75-69.
Walker’s 3-pointer pushed the Celtics to their largest lead, 86-76, in the fourth. The Clippers ran off eight points in a row, getting 3s from Beverley and Williams, to trail 86-84. Neither team led by more than 10 points in the game.
Leonard and George combined to score the Clippers’ first 11 points of the third for a 51-45 lead. That’s when the Celtics kicked in from long range, with Tatum hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and Walker following with another. Tatum connected on consecutive 3s later in the period, too.
TIP-INS Celtics: They dominated in the paint, 52-32. ... Daniel Theis had 14 rebounds and five fouls. Clippers: Their bench outscored the Celtics’ reserves 43-29. ... The teams were even on the boards with 53 apiece.
DUNK THIS Leonard got around Smart on his way to the basket and dunked one-handed over Theis in the fourth. “That’s Finals MVP,” George said. “He knows when it’s time to take over. He’s been there.” MANY MINUTES
Leonard and George each played 37 minutes, which is more than Rivers would have liked. George had been kept around 28-30 since returning. “This is preseason for me in terms of my condition and getting speed and playing at this level,” George said. “I was a little winded.”
UP NEXT Celtics: At the Denver Nuggets on Friday to end a five-game swing out West. Clippers: Host the Houston Rockets on Friday in the fourth of five straight home games.
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