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The San Antonio Spurs may not be the perennial juggernaut most of us have quietly grown accustomed to, but they are still one of the league's best teams, and a title contender - if one of the less likely ones - in a stacked Western Conference.



The Boston Celtics might have been written off in this game just over a week ago, after an especially rough stretch that saw Al Horford and Jae Crowder out with a concussion and ankle sprain (respectively) after starting the season with Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) and Marcus Smart (ankle). However, with Boston's injury woes seemingly in the rear-view mirror, the Celts looked to continue their three game winning streak - all the more impressive given it was on the road - with a statement game at home.

For all of Boston's recent offensive renaissance, the game started out with both teams clearly focusing on defense; the game started ugly, with the Spurs and Celts trading rushed or contested shots until Avery Bradley hit the first bucket nearly two minutes into the game. Kawhi Leonard got the Spurs on the board with a three to answer Avery Bradley, followed quickly with a flush from Horford.

Both teams began to heat up offensively, with Tony Parker sinking a near basket bucket before a Leonard turnover led to a step-back jumper nailed almost from deep by Bradley, and uncharacteristic hustle on the defensive boards turned into a Jae Crowder trey. A foul by Leonard and turnover by Parker were capitalized on by Isaiah Thomas from the stripe and Bradley from the elbow, threatening to break the game open for Boston at 8 - 15, but the Spurs called a timeout, and Patty Mills put a short stop to the bleeding.


The respite did not last long, though, with Crowder putting up a trio of buckets in between some sloppy offense by Leonard and ex-Celtic David Lee that put Boston up 12 with five minutes left in the first. More poor ball control and shot selection followed from both squads, broken up by a Bradley basket and a pair of near-basket shots from Lee. Marcus Smart and Jonas Jerebko managed to get on the board in the first's waning moments, and the Spurs found some offense in a pair of baskets from Davis Bertrans, plus a bucket each from Mills and Lee. A foul by NBA D-League call-up sensation Jonathon Simmons on Thomas pushed Boston's cushion back to ten to end the first, and a Danny Green foul on Smart added two more to start the second.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Jaylen Brown traded a pair of buckets after Smart and Aldridge traded misses, and Brown managed to draw a foul on Aldridge, though he could not convert at the line. Kelly Olynyk managed a near-basket bucket on an assist from Smart, only to have Aldridge get fouled by Amir Johnson on the other end of the court. Aldridge could not convert, either, however, and several more minutes of hard-to-watch basketball by both teams continued until Brown fouled Leonard, who did convert to cut Boston's lead to eleven with just under eight left in the half.


A bad pass by Johnson, a travel by Leonard, and a delay-of-game foul by the Spurs started to make one wonder about the state of watchable basketball involving the Celts playing teams from Texas, until a pair of treys from Betrans and Leonard cut the lead to just five. Aldridge got San Antonio back to a one-possession game until Jerebko answered back with his own bucket, followed by a dunk by Bertrans to put the Spurs within one. Smart, Thomas and Crowder pushed the cushion back to seven until a Thomas foul on Green gave the Spurs a pair from the line. The two teams traded baskets until a foul on Manu Ginobli closed the half, with Manu managing to sink both of the two awarded, leaving the Celts ahead 48 - 46.

The second half opened ugly as well, with the first basket not falling until Parker tied the game up at eleven minutes left in the third. Momentum seemed to shift to the Spurs until Crowder sunk a trey at the seven minute mark, and a renewed focus on defense led to a shot clock violation shortly after. Leonard and Bradley traded baskets, and Olynyk put Boston back in the lead with a three with just over four minutes left in the quarter. More back-and-forth buckets continued, with Lee showing unusual intensity on the offensive end of the floor, drawing a foul and throwing down a dunk on a Simmons assist. The offensive exchange continued until a Mills trey connected in final seconds of the third quarter, putting the Spurs up 75 - 74.


The final quarter started with Bradley fouling Simmons, and Bertrans hitting a trey on the next possession, and Bradley answering back with a quick pair of buckets and a steal to retake the lead. A Terry Rozier foul on Mills handed it right back to San Antonio, but a Horford flush soon returned the favor. The boxing match continued on a Simmons basket assisted by Lee, followed by a Smart technical foul and on the other end, an Olynyk steal. A Parker trey with eight left in the game gave the Spurs a two-possesion lead, but a Smart jumper with a foul by Parker cut it back to two on the next possession.

Leonard and Olynyk, then Aldridge and Rozier traded baskets, with Rozier also managing to get a call at the basket on a foul by Parker, cutting the lead to 91 - 89 Spurs with just under six to go. Bradley could not convert a Rozier steal from Lee, who then returned the favor with his own basket and foul, giving San Antonio a five-point lead. Thomas cut the lead back to three with a basket on the other end, but Mills answered back with a long two. Aldridge then stopped Thomas at the basket, only to have Crowder sink a three off an assist by Smart.


Thomas continued to try and take over, but Leonard denied him once again, taking the defensive board to the hoop and giving the Spurs a short-lived six-point lead, only to have Horford cut the lead back to four on a dunk on the next play. Leonard tried a three to answer with just under three minutes left in the game but missed, and the Spurs called a full timeout to plan their response to a likely Boston push.

A Danny Green turnover seemed to signal another momentum shift, but Smart could not connect on a jumper to capitalize on the mistake, and Crowder fouled Leonard on the next possession, pushing the Spurs' lead to eight with just under two minutes to go. Brad Stevens called a twenty-second time out, leading to a quick bucket by Thomas, then a miss by Leonard on the next play and a three by Thoma to pull the Celts to a one-possession lead with a minute left.


Mills would answer back with a trey of his own at the 45-second mark, leading to another Boston time out. Yet again, the Celts tried to claw back into the lead with a quick Horford dunk, putting the team down 107 - 103 with 39 seconds remaining. The Spurs called their own twenty-second time out, and Ginobli tried and missed a three on their next possession, with Bradley fouling Aldridge as he grabbed a defensive rebound.

Aldridge converted both free throws, and a Danny Green block of  a Thomas three-point attempt and a missed Crowder trey sealed the deal, giving the Spurs a hard-earned victory on the road. While this was certainly not the desired outcome, Boston fans should take heart in the effort and grit showed by the team against one of the top three or four teams in the league. Ultimately, while Boston actually moved the ball and rebounded well, the Spurs ability to convert from the charity stripe won them the game, which, while clearly unacceptable, is better than how many losses this season were handed to opponents by low effort and a lack of rebounding.


The Celts next face the Miami Heat at home on Monday, November 28th.

For more stories on Celticslife about the Spurs, click here. For more by Justin, click here.





Photo via Getty Images/www.rantsports.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 11/25/2016 03:50:00 PM Edit
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