Up until yesterday the Celtics had been floating.

Winning without first Rajon Rondo and then Jared Sullinger had almost been like gravy. But yesterday, faced with their second quality opponent in what is now a four-game winning streak, the Celtics came within a 15-3 fourth-quarter Los Angeles Clippers run of caving.

Visions of Jan. 25 in Atlanta, when a blown 27-point lead led to a double-overtime loss, started to come to mind. The Celtics had led yesterday by as many as 19 points before pulling out a 106-104 win over the third-best team in the Western Conference — albeit one without Chris Paul.

Not that the Celtics need to hear about asterisks, considering their own departed.

But they did hear it from coach Doc Rivers once some of the old habits reappeared, like walking the ball up the floor and throwing it away. Thankfully for the Celtics, who fumbled 17 times, including seven in the nearly disastrous fourth, the Clippers (21 turnovers for 33 C's points) were sloppier.

The Celts were saved by three big plays in the last 1:09: Jason Terry's right-elbow jumper for a 103-98 lead, Avery Bradley's ability to draw a charge on Jamal Crawford when the Clippers had a chance to tie the game, and Paul Pierce's game-sealing 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left. Those three plays forgave a lot of sins.

"We were pressuring, we were getting up the floor, we were playing in space, our offense was early clock — and we get into the middle of the third quarter and all of a sudden they're scoring in five seconds, and we're walking the ball off the floor," Rivers said. "And I'm trying to tell them, 'That's not who we are. We can't be that anymore. We just can't. We can't play that way.'