With Paul sidelined, the Clippers have lost five of seven games, including their biggest setback and lowest scoring game of the season, 98-73 at Toronto on Friday night.
“We’re just a little out of rhythm,” Los Angeles forward Matt Barnes said. “Guys are just playing a little out of position, but that’s no excuse.”
The Celtics also are missing rookie forward Jared Sullinger after he had season-ending back surgery Friday.
But they moved within 1 1-2 games of the Milwaukee Bucks for seventh place in the East and 3 1-2 ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for the final playoff spot in the conference.
Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa scored 14 points each for the Celtics and led a 52-point contribution from the bench. The Clippers were led by Bledsoe, replacing Paul, and Crawford, who made a 3-pointer at the buzzer, with 23 points each. Blake Griffin had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Without Rondo, the Celtics were encouraged by coach Doc Rivers to take the open shot or move the ball quickly when they don’t have it. That prevents opposing defenses from double teaming the ball handler.
“We beat a heck of a team and I’m very happy with that,” Rivers said, “but in my mind we can be better, much better, than we were today.”
The first half was one of the best of the season for the Celtics, and they headed to the locker room with a 59-40 lead.
“We’re playing good in spurts right now,” Pierce said. “We got stagnant at times. We didn’t defend at a high level in the second half. ... A win’s a win, but we made it a lot more difficult than we thought it should have been.”
Trailing 98-83, the Clippers began a 15-3 run with Griffin’s free with 9:39 to play. Crawford’s layup made it 101-98 with 3:18 remaining.