Paul Pierce helped the NBA-leading Boston Celtics snap their longest losing streak of the season. Now, they'll try to finish a five-game Western Conference road trip on a positive note Monday night when they face the last-place Los Angeles Clippers.
Boston started its swing with a 124-118 loss at Denver on Tuesday before losing 119-117 to Golden State the following night. The slide reached three games Friday with an 85-77 defeat at Phoenix, as the Celtics (42-12) produced their lowest scoring output of the season.
They appeared headed to a fourth consecutive loss Sunday, trailing Portland by 17 points in the first half before Pierce finished with 30 points to help Boston rally for a 112-102 win. Pierce shot 12-for-14 from the field after he was 2-for-13 for eight points against the Suns.
"Last game, the way I played was one of my top-five worst games of my career," Pierce said. "I wanted to come out and focus better, and shots were there and I was able to knock them down.
"We've been struggling. Last game our defense finally came back, but the offense just wasn't there. But tonight, we've got both ends of the court in gear."
Pierce leads the Celtics, who are two games ahead of Detroit in the race for the league's best record, with 20.6 points per game. He is averaging 23.3 points in 15 career games against the Clippers (19-34). However, he had only 15 points in the last matchup, a 111-100 win on Feb. 6 that snapped Boston's three-game skid in the series.
Rajon Rondo was the catalyst in that victory, scoring a career-high 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting with eight assists. The second-year guard matched that assist total against the Trail Blazers while adding 15 points to increase his season averages to 10.8 points and 4.8 assists, which matches Pierce for the team lead.
The Clippers, who are at the bottom of the Pacific Division, fell 113-95 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, dropping to 2-2 on their season high-tying six-game homestand.
They hope to have center Chris Kaman back in the lineup after he sat out Saturday's loss with a sore lower back. Kaman, third in the league with 13.3 rebounds per game, had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in nearly 36 minutes in the Clippers' 114-104 victory over Utah on Friday.
Los Angeles has won only once in six games without Kaman, who missed five games with a shin injury from Jan. 26-Feb. 2. His current status is uncertain.
Sam Cassell's status is also unknown after he missed the past two games with a sprained right wrist.
If Kaman and Cassell aren't healthy enough to play, the scoring onus will fall on Corey Maggette again.
The swingman, who leads the Clippers with 22.0 points per game, is coming off a 23-point performance against the Lakers.
Maggette is averaging 26.8 points on 52.8 percent shooting (65-for-123) in the last eight games, which began when he made 11-of-18 shots for 33 points against Boston.
The Clippers' homestand concludes Wednesday against Portland.