Celtics with another frustrating loss to San Antonio, 108-101
The Spurs controlled the game from early in the 1st, and handed the Celtics another loss from another good team (108-101). Kawhi Leonard had a solid performance with 26 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists to go along with his usual stellar defense. Pau Gasol turned back the clock and very quietly had a monster 17 point, 13 rebound, and 6 assist performance that looked like one of his old Lakers stat lines. Tony Parker took over the game in the 4th quarter, to kill the momentum from a late 3rd quarter rally from Boston.
Avery Bradley carried the C's with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals on 10 of 16 shooting. Jae Crowder and Terry Rozier each chipped in 15 and 12 respectively, but the Celtics really struggled to score for long stretches throughout the game.
The two teams traded baskets to start the game, until a wide open corner-three from Avery Bradley prompted a timeout from an irritated Gregg Popovich (11-7 Celtics). The C's were on a mission early to attack the paint, particularly with the matchup of Al Horford on our old friend David Lee - who was starting in place of LaMarcus Aldridge:
The Celtics clearly want to exploit David Lee's (lack of) defense. They're pounding it down to Al Horford on the block.— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) December 15, 2016
The timeout proved effective, as San Antonio marched off a 13-3 run following it. Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard jump started his team with 9 points in the first frame, and super-sub Manu Ginobili chipped in 8 off the bench by hitting all three of his shots (2-2 from deep). The Spurs were up 32-23 heading into the 2nd.
Bradley kept the Celtics alive by notching 9 points of his own to go along with 3 boards, and we did get to witness this terrific steal by Jaylen Brown. He basically snatched a ball out of Ginobili's hands and took off for a breakaway dunk:
Jaylen Brown yanks the ball out of Manu's hands and then stuffs it at the other end. #Weightroom pic.twitter.com/sTSOuX74Ex— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 15, 2016
Brad Stevens looked to mix it up after the subpar first period, and went with a lineup consisting entirely of the usual 2nd-unit:
Celtics open the second quarter with what will normally be their all-bench unit. Smart, Rozier, Brown, Olynyk, Jerebko.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 15, 2016
The quarter started with more of the same as the Spurs pushed their lead to 11, but some big buckets and hard defense from the C's bench got them back in the game. Five straight points from Kelly Olynyk and a pair of threes from Rozier helped get the C's rolling, and a another trey from Bradley knotted up the score at 40 before a Spurs timeout with 4:33 to go in the half.
Crowder put the finishing touch on a 10-2 run after the timeout with this 3-point play in the paint to put the C's up for the 1st time since the opening minutes:
Jae Crowder does some work in the post, throws the head fake, and his and-one caps a 10-2 Celtics run. pic.twitter.com/LYKPfgXNGw— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 15, 2016
However the half ended about as poorly as could be for Boston, as the Spurs stormed into the break on a 14-4 run, and a 9 point lead (56-47). Leonard and Ginobili tallied 14 and 10 points respectively, and the Spurs shot 56.5% as a team, which more than made up for their sloppy first half (8 turnovers).
Bradley carried the load for the Celtics with 16 points and and 6 rebounds, and Rozier provided a big boost off the bench with 10 points in just 12 minutes. Aside from a couple of early buckets Al Horford was essentially invisible in the first half.
The Spurs opened the 3rd quarter and...well, looked exactly like the Spurs - a well oiled basketball machine. Great ball movement led to open shots, close shots, free-throws, and Brad Stevens had seen enough when the Boston deficit ballooned to 15 with 7:03 to go and called timeout (70-55 Spurs).
Inside the huddle Coach Stevens telling his guys: "One at a time." Take it one possession at a time. #CelticsTalk— Abby Chin (@tvabby) December 15, 2016
The Celtics stormed out of that timeout to an 18-4 run over the next 6 minutes that put them behind just 1 point (74-73). The run consisted of some crisp passing and fluid passing from Boston, and some more turnovers from the Spurs. A huge three-pointer from Pau Gasol brought the San Antonio crowd back to life, and the home team led by 4 heading into the final frame.
The Spurs opened up with 6 straight points, and it quickly turned into the Tony Parker show. Parker shredded the Celtics for 10 points, and San Antonio cruised to another victory over the C's. It was a game of runs back-and-forth, and the Celtics spent the game on the wrong side of them. For every time they got back in the game, the Spurs would bury them again.
Another loss to a quality opponent. Now the Celtics will look to get back on track Friday night against Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets. Isaiah Thomas is due back from injury, and the C's certainly need the help.
Celtics lose to Spurs for 11th straight time. They are now 13-12 and could fall out of East playoff picture (for now) with a loss Friday.— Brian Robb (@CelticsHub) December 15, 2016
Photo Credit - Soobum Im/USA Today
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