The Spurs may be old, but they’re the older brother who’s
been consistently beating you for the past 13 years. The Celtics found that out
the hard way tonight as they fell to the Spurs and now sit at 2 and 1/2 behind
Indiana for 3rd place in the Eastern conference while the Spurs creep on the
Thunder and are only 1 game behind the Thunder for 1st in the Western
conference. Here’s what we learned in tonight’s 1pt loss for the Celtics as
they fell to San Antonio, 87-86.
1) The Spurs are still championship contenders. Since
signing Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw, the Spurs now have 12 legit impact
players in the league. The most in the league by far while also giving them
depth and playoff experience at every position. They still have a excellent
bench as well, since Popovich is still developing them. Definite Coach of the
Year and championship potential for the Spurs.
2) The Celtics defense is still alive and well, just not always consistent. The
Celtics held the Spurs to a season low 9 points in the 3rd quarter.
3) Avery Bradley’s improvement is not a result of just extra minutes, it’s the
result of hard work and experience. Bradley led the Celtics tonight with 19
points off the bench.
4) The Celtics are still a horrible rebounding team.
5) Pavlovic’s defense on perimeter is great against
penetrating point guards, like Tony Parker. This tactic was first used by
Phoenix in 05/06 -06/07 when Diaw would guard Tony Parker during the epic
SA-PHX playoff rivalries.
Tonight was an important positive for the Celtics despite the loss. They are
still in 4th place in the league and inching closer to securing the 3rd seed.
They also received Ray Allen back after missing several games. Last but not
least, they proved they can still get reliable production from Garnett, Pierce,
Rondo, but now Avery Bradley as well too. Despite the 1pt loss. This is great
news for the Celtics.
Here’s how the Celtics lost the game. In the first quarter, fresh off his
player of the month trophy, Paul Pierce was scoring easily against the Spurs
due to Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard unable to defend him. But then The Celtics
started missing shots for a 4 minute strech, and in the last 6 minutes, made
only one shot in their past 11 shots. The make was a Rondo jumpshot. This had the
Celtics trailing behind 27-20 at the end of the first, and a stark contrast
from the Spurs, who had 23 points. Of those 23 points, 20 points were scored in
the paint, mostly on layups, dunks, and jump hooks. The other 7 points, were 4
free throws (all produced by driving to the paint) and one 3pt shot. The Spurs
got to the paint at will against the Celtics, with Bass Allen and Pierce unable
to prevent their matchups (Blair, Green, Jackson) from getting to the rim at
will. This is all without Duncan or Ginobli scoring any point in the 1st as
well, bad news for the Celtics.
In the 2nd, the C’s offense didn’t
stutter as they were quickly able to score getting reliable production from
Pavlovic and Bradley who combined to score 18 points in the 2nd. Bradley scored
11 points straight in a span of 4 minutes, as well as hitting the last shot for
the Celtics in the period. The problem though, was the Spurs kept getting
several shots as well, mostly on layups and wide open 3′s and the Spurs 7pt
led, quickly grew to 15 before finishing off at 59-48. During that stretch for
the Spurs, Bonner and Gary Neal combined to hit two 3′s each, and a layup, with
Neal making 2 layups. Green also scored on a 3pter, giving the Spurs 5 3pters
made in the 2nd quarter, going 5-8 on 3′s after going 1-4 in the 1st. The Spurs
finished 6-12 on 3′s at halftime and led 59-48. The Celtics bench was unable to
contain the offense of the Spurs , while Spurs could not contain Bradley
either, and the match turned into a run and gun affair.
Then the worst 3rd quarter of basketball ever played, began.
The Spurs had only 9 points, going 0-8 on 3′s and making only 4-19 shots. They
also had 4 turnovers as Ginobli and Duncan could not take care of the ball.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, they were equally as bad, scoring only 16 points
on 6-18 shooting accompanied with 8 turnovers including offensive goaltending,
offensive fouls, shot clock violations, and horrible passes. The ugliest 3rd
quarter finished with the Spurs leading 68-64 despite a 6 minute stretch
without Boston scoring, and two 5 minute stretches without San Antonio scoring
In the 4th, both teams still shot poorly, but they were getting to the line
more and making the game semi-competitive. The Spurs had the game won, building
a 7pt lead in the 4th before they went cold for a 7 minute stretch allowing the
Celtics to lead by two. The Celtics built the lead primarily off Rondo and
Garnett who contributed for 15 of the Celtics points in the quarter with playmaking and scoring.
The Celtics built a two pt lead 83-81 and the fans got back into the game cheering for the
lifeless C’s who suddenly became focus and entertaining again. The Spurs wouldn’t give up,
as a back and forth exchange occurred with both teams trading baskets,
including a brilliant 3pter by Ray Allen out of an inbounds play to bring the
Celtics within 87-86 after their lead quickly disappeared. Pierce got the final
shot against Duncan, a mismatch, and Pierce missed the step back jumper as the
Celtics ultimately lost 87-86 in this not so close matchup. For those of you
who managed to avoid watching the 3nd half, save for the last 3 minutes of the
4th quarter, you have impeccable timing.
Interesting observations for the game:
The Spurs are now 31-2 when leading at halftime, while the Celtics are now 20-4
in games where they lead at half. Greg Stiemsma was a no-show today, playing 8
earnest minutes and altering some shots, but ultimately had a low impact on the
game. Stephen Jackson, Gary Neal, and Matt Bonner all played amazingly for the
Spurs, with tough D, playmaking, and spreading the floor for a night that
allowed Popovich to still improve his bench in preparation for the playoffs.
Jackson’s defense and contributions to the Spurs can easily make them a #1 seed
and finals favourite along with the Thunder, for a championship this year. The
Celtics are still struggling to develop their bench, outside of Bradley,
Stiemsma, and Pavlovic. Most of the
turnovers by both teams, were a result of hesitation jump passes that were
easily predictable and more importantly avoidable as well.
Plays of the night:
1A) Ray Allen scores on a clutch 3pter within 7 seconds of an inbounds play.
1B) Ginobli hits an insanely difficult floating bank shot off the rim, after
pivoting several times away from defenders before attacking the basket.
1C) Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard did a double block on Paul Pierce
About the Author
Written by Andrew Mossad
Avid basketball player/fan out of Ontario with a strong preference on matchup mismatches and good basketball over highlights.