Their mascot is a leprechaun. Their warmup jackets have a shamrock on the sleeve. Their opponent was the hapless Los Angeles Clippers.
There was no way the Boston Celtics were going to lose on St. Patrick's Day. Far from it.
Wednesday night's 118-84 win was their biggest of the season, surpassing a 32-point victory over Orlando, 111-79 on Feb. 24. It extended to nine their home winning streak on St. Patrick's Day since their last loss in 1968.
"I'm glad I didn't know that. That would have been more pressure," said Antoine Walker.
Some pressure was relieved when the Clippers won their first game after tying an NBA record of 17 losses to start a season. They beat Sacramento last Thursday night, but are 0-4 since then for a combined 1-21.
"I was looking forward to playing them as long as they weren't winless," Walker said. "We were nervous about that."
Led by Kenny Anderson's 21 points, the Celtics broke a five-game losing streak as six players scored in double figures. Walker, Tony Battie and Vitaly Potapenko had 14 each and Potapenko added 11 rebounds, giving him his first double-double in three games since he was traded by Cleveland.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable," he said. "You can't go into the game and say, `Oh, it's the Clippers,' and go half speed and cruise around because you're going to get beat."
Los Angeles was led by Michael Olowoandi with 17 points and Maurice Taylor with 14. Lorenzen Wright had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"You do have to win to get that feeling of what it takes to win," Olowokandi said. "You have to do it for yourself."
Anderson, who came into the game averaging 11.8 points per game, just missed his season high of 22. He had 12 at halftime, when Boston led 54-39. He added nine in the third quarter, helping the Celtics to an 82-66 lead.
They started the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run, making it 94-69 with 9:08 left. Battie had six points and Popeye Jones four in the surge. That erased any doubt the Clippers might mount a comeback.
"We didn't have an answer for their intensity," Los Angeles coach Chris Ford said. "They intimidated our guys."
The Celtics outrebounded the Clippers 56-37 and led in assists 29-11.
"We're thinking pass before shot," Celtics coach Rick Pitino said. "That's helping us."
The Celtics also made 56.5 percent of their shots to 36.5 percent for Los Angeles, which entered the game allowing an NBA-high 102.9 points per game and an NBA-worst 47.9 field goal percentage.
The Celtics, returning from a winless road trip, had taken control with a 16-2 run that gave them a 54-34 lead with 1:30 left in the half. Paul Pierce started it with a layup, a dunk and a free throw. Wright finally ended it with a layup for Los Angeles.
| Vitaly Potapenko strips the ball from L.A.'s Lorenzen Wright. (AP)|
"Right now, I'm finding it hard to sugarcoat things," Ford said. "I just wish they'd come out and play with passion."
At least the Clippers got off to a better start than they did the previous night when the New York Knicks scored the first 14 points en route to a 113-89 victory.
The Clippers led 14-10, but Boston took the lead for good on a 10-footer by Anderson and a 3-point shot by Walter McCarty.
© 1999 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved