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For the first 47 1/2 minutes, Rajon Rondo was quicker, sharper and smoother than Baron Davis.
In the final seconds, the Boston youngster just couldn't match the bearded one's California cool.
Davis hit a long fallaway jumper at the buzzer after Rondo missed two free throws 1.5 seconds earlier, and the Los Angeles Clippers dramatically snapped the Celtics' nine-game road winning streak with a 92-90 victory on Sunday night.
Davis had 24 points and 13 assists for the Clippers, whose three-game losing streak ended when Davis took an inbounds pass with a second left, pivoted and hopped backward for a perfect 22-footer while drawing a little contact from Rondo, giving Los Angeles its only lead of the second half.
Davis knows drama, as he proved during his thrill-filled tenure with the Golden State Warriors before joining the Clippers last season.
"I'm used to taking them and making them," Davis said with a shrug. "I've been in that situation before. Every time I get in that situation, I feel like I can make that shot. You've just got to prepare your mind for it when you go out there to take that shot."
On the verge of a fourth straight loss that would have dropped them a season-worst six games below .500, the Clippers erased an 11-point deficit against the team with the NBA's second-best record and just one loss in its previous 15 games. Los Angeles tied it when Rasual Butler hit a 3-pointer off a drive-and-dish pass from Davis with 8.5 seconds left.
Rondo scored 20 points in another impressive offensive game for the Celtics, but his free throw woes - he's hovering near 53 percent for the season - cost the Celtics dearly. After drawing a foul from Davis, his two misses were actually three, including another shot that was waved off in between the two that counted.
"I made it tough," Rondo said. "We just didn't execute down the stretch. I felt confidence shooting them. I wasn't antsy or nervous. I took my time and I kept my follow-through up. But the first one was just long, and the second one was long."
Davis then had a Jimmy Chitwood moment, although his "Hoosiers"-style declaration didn't surprise anybody in the Clippers' huddle.
"Baron said, 'Coach, draw it up and I will make this,"' coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He told us to give him the ball, so we draw up a play and it paid off."
Eric Gordon scored 15 points for the underachieving Clippers, who stunned their first sellout crowd of the season with their comeback. Staples Center was filled with a large percentage of Boston fans, yet the home team rebounded just in time from its worst loss of the season in Phoenix on Friday.
Kevin Garnett had 12 points and eight rebounds while playing mostly on the perimeter with a sore back for the Celtics, whose three-game winning streak ended two days after their impressive Christmas victory over the Orlando Magic. Boston managed just two points in the final 3:30 of its second straight road loss to the Clippers, who got 27 points and 12 rebounds from Chris Kaman.
Ray Allen scored 13 points for the Celtics, who played without injured star Paul Pierce for the second straight game. The Celtics hadn't lost on the road since Nov. 14 at Indiana.
"The free throws didn't bother me, honestly," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I would love for Rondo to make the free throws, but I thought, for a veteran team, we played with absolutely zero composure ... We just didn't play like a veteran basketball team, and I thought it was more composure than anything else."
The loss also left the Lakers alone atop the overall NBA standings at 24-5.
After the Clippers missed several chances to tie it in the final minutes when Boston's offense stalled, Davis drove the lane and dished to Butler for a wide-open tying 3-pointer. Rondo then blew past Davis, who clearly hacked him on the arm during a layup attempt. The game clock expired during the play, but officials put 1.5 seconds back on the clock after video review, setting up Rondo's misses and Davis' heroics.
Rivers doesn't expect Pierce to join the Celtics on their four-game road trip, keeping him home to rest his infected right knee. Rivers said the Los Angeles native's condition fluctuates, and nobody is certain whether Pierce will play even when the Celtics return home.
Marcus Camby was inactive for the Clippers after aggravating his hyperextended left knee in their Christmas night loss at Phoenix. Dunleavy isn't certain when he'll be back.
NOTES: Tony Allen replaced Pierce in the starting lineup for the second straight game, while Jordan filled in for Camby in his first start of the season. ... The Clippers won a two-point decision over the Celtics at Staples Center last season.
This program aired on December 28, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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