Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Spurs Vs. Celtics Never Disappoints
After battling back from a 17-point deficit (55-38 in the 3rd quarter) to take the lead in the fourth, Boston (30-23, 19-9 home) had a chance to win it after getting a stop. Paul Pierce (15 points, 10 rebounds; named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March earlier) was isolated on Tim Duncan (10 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks) but Pierce's mid-range stepback jumper drew iron and the Spurs (38-14, 17-10 away) held on for an 87-86 win.
San Antonio won its ninth straight game while they snapped Boston's five-game win streak (eight in a row at home).
If I told you that Danny Green (14 points) led the Spurs in scoring while Avery Bradley had a game-high 19 points for the Celtics off the bench, you would guarantee that it was a preseason game or late-season meaningless contest, right? Not tonight. They were the unlikely catalysts for two solid veteran squads.
Gary Neal had 13 points off the bench for San Antonio while New Hampshire's own Matt Bonner had 10 points and 10 rebounds including the final bucket for the Spurs which put them up four (87-83 with 46 seconds left). Tony Parker added 10 points for the Western Conference's second best team (behind Oklahoma City).
Rajon Rondo (17 points, 11 assists, 4 steals) played better than Parker and Kevin Garnett (16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) was slightly better than Duncan. Ray Allen (5 points, 7 rebounds) returned after missing the past six games and he struggled, going 2 for 6 from the field although he hit a clutch 3-pointer (Boston's final points) with 39 seconds left. If Bradley continues to be on fire and Allen doesn't pick it up in the next few games, Doc Rivers will have no choice but to start Bradley since he brings a whole other dimension to Boston with his defensive ability and the way he gets to the rim.
Playing the second night of a back-to-back, the Spurs surprisingly came out fast and built a 27-20 lead after one quarter and 59-48 at halftime. The second half was pretty ugly as the Celtics outscored the Spurs 16-9 in the third and 38-28 in the fourth.
San Antonio won because they punished Boston on the boards (53-39 including 12-4 offensive). The Spurs hit three more 3-pointers (7-4) and two more free throws (8-6). Boston shot nearly 4% better (45.8-41.9), they had four more assists (21-17), six more steals (13-7), six less turnovers (17-11) and seven more points off turnovers (17-10).
The Celtics fly to Chicago to take on the Bulls, the Eastern Conference's and NBA's top team, tomorrow night. Word is that Derrick Rose could return too after missing the last 11 games. Boston is 1-2 against Chicago this season with most recently an 89-80 loss on February 16 at the United Center. This is the toughest stretch of the season as the C's play the Spurs, Bulls, Pacers and Sixers in five nights.