Final, Spurs win 103-88: This game was unofficially finished long before the final buzzer officially put it in the books. Tony Parker and Gary Neal demolished the Celtics with 42 combined points on 15-of-27 shooting. There was very little the Spurs could have done better.
The Spurs shot 25 threes and made nearly half of them, while their defense shut down the Celtics’ offense with very little physicality. The Celtics only took eight free throws and the Spurs made it the entire game committing only 12 fouls, and there was not a sniff of one-sided officiating. The Spurs were simply able to force turnovers or stop the Celtics’ shots without initiating contact.
Jason Terry and Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 18 points each, but both faded in the second half. Terry scored only one point after halftime.
The Celtics should get a needed day off Sunday before returning to the drawing board on Monday to prepare for Tuesday’s game in Chicago. If the Celtics do not improve their defense quickly, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau may show Doc Rivers that the student has become the teacher.
Fourth quarter, 3:34, Spurs 96-82: Parker is torching Rondo. There is no other way to put it. He is getting to the cup at will, picking apart the defense when Rondo’s teammate try to help, and has given San Antonio a 14-point advantage on a ridiculous reverse layup.
Fourth quarter, 6:24, Spurs 89-78: Garnett had better get back in this game before things really get out of hand — if they have not already.
Since Garnett took a seat, the Celtics have been outscored 10-5 (and that is giving Boston credit for Lee’s and-one free throw, which came right after Brandon Bass subbed in for Garnett). Parker was killing the Celtics once again. His corner three and tough running jump shot forced a timeout from a livid Rivers.
In comes Garnett, to see if he can make a difference.
Fourth quarter, 9:04, Spurs 79-73: Here it is again. Lee flies to the hoop for a layup, plus the foul, and the Celtics are back within six points. Garnett, who is laboring, will get one last blow before what the Celtics hope is a final push. But for all we know, the Spurs could just be playing with the Celtics again, giving them a false sense of encouragement before laying down the hammer.
End of third quarter, Spurs lead 77-69: Rondo has had a rough game. He has the same amount of turnovers (six) as points through three quarters, although his nine assists are sort of nice. Terry has not scored since the second quarter, while on the Spurs’ side, Neal has erupted. The Towson product has 17 points to lead San Antonio heading into the final quarter.
Pierce has a game-high 18 points, but the Celtics have been unable to find offense from anywhere else in the second half.
Third quarter, 3:17, Spurs 74-63: Not to sound like a broken record or anything, but the Spurs just keep doing it. They keep letting the Celtics close enough to harbor some thoughts of coming back, and then crush their hopes and dreams.
Wilcox threw down a jam to narrow the gap to six points. Then the Spurs outscored the Celtics 7-2 over the next two minutes. Boris Diaw, of all people, has given the Spurs an 11-point edge with a reverse layup.
Third quarter, 5:59, Spurs 66-59: Rivers’ words must have had some effect. Pierce hits a pair of free throws and Garnett cans a jumper. The deficit is still seven points, but consecutive buckets by the Celtics have been a rare occurrence, so they will take small victories as they come.
Third quarter, 8:02, Spurs 61-55: The Spurs are not quite playing at their breakneck pace of last year, but they can still move the ball quickly when necessary.
They blitzed the Celtics coming out of the halftime break, and rather than try to slow down the pace to a more favorable level, Rondo tried to push the ball as well. The result was a six-point deficit and a quick timeout by Doc Rivers.
Halftime, Spurs lead 52-49: Ginobili will not be making a return to this game. He appeared to injure himself flopping as he was screened by Chris Wilcox, and the medical report was that Ginobili bruised his left thigh and is done for the night. We are glad his injury is not serious, but it is fitting that Ginobili would hurt himself while exaggerating contact.
Terry spent eight years playing in the Lone Star State, so it makes sense that he looks so at home playing the NBA’s so-called “Texas Triangle.” The Spurs were one of the Mavericks’ main rivals during his time in Dallas, and Terry is back to victimize them again. He has 17 points at halftime on 6-for-8 shooting, leading a Celtics offense that seems to be playing more efficiently than it really is.
The Celtics are shooting 53 percent overall and 6-for-11 from deep. Pierce is 6-for-9 from the field for 14 points, but the Celtics have tossed away the ball 12 times and they have paid for it.
The Spurs look like a well-oiled machine, as usual. They have placed three players in double figures in scoring and have committed only three fouls.
Second quarter, 6:33, Spurs 38-31: Matt Bonner knows his role and he fills it well. The veteran marksman takes a ton of threes and not much else, which is why he still finds himself on the roster of a contender at the age of 32. Bonner had taken 63 shots before this game, and 37 of them had been threes.
Every once in a while, though, Bonner will step inside the arc. He drills a 19-footer from the left baseline to extend San Antonio’s lead over the Celtics back to seven points. Gradually, once again the Spurs are rebuilding their advantage.
Second quarter, 8:57, Spurs 30-29: We said this during Friday’s game, but it merits mentioning again. Terry just looks more comfortable coming off the bench. He seems unsure of where to be and how to accommodate Garnett and Rondo, but with the second unit he just lets it fly.
By scoring six straight points, Terry has pulled the Celtics back within one point and, most importantly, has undone all that work the Spurs did to control the pace early.
End of first quarter, Spurs 26-21: The bank is open late at the Alamo. (Hopefully, Pee Wee finds his bicycle in the basement.) Jason Terry pump-faked and stepped just inside the arc for a jumper as the buzzer sounded, and while Terry has one of the best pull-up jumpers in the business, we doubt he meant to clack that one in off the backboard.
Terry’s jumper helps make Boston’s deficit look a bit more manageable, but there is no question the Spurs are in control here. They are making the Celtics play at their tempo and have seven free throw attempts to the Celtics’ zero. That disparity is entirely due to the Spurs’ ability to get to the rim and not due to any sort of slanted officiating.
First quarter, 2:54, Spurs 20-19: Parker seems to be hell-bent on proving a point whenever he plays the Celtics. Parker, who is often overlooked when people discuss the best point guards in the league, is giving Rondo all he can handle.
In the first nine minutes, Parker has six points and two assists. Even more than the statistics, though, the Spurs’ floor general just seems to have total control of the game. Right now, Rondo still seems to be trying to find it, as he spent all game Friday doing to no avail.
First quarter, 5:57, Spurs 15-12: These Spurs can be frustrating to play. They give just enough for their opponent to be optimistic while they’re silently bleeding them out.
The Celtics hit six of their first seven shots to take an early lead, but then Gary Neal hits a 3-pointer, Tony Parker drops a baseline jumper and drives to the hoop for a layup and suddenly the Celtics trailed. If the Celtics still have memories of the surgical way the Spurs picked them apart earlier this season, they might want to be more alert on defense.
8:04 p.m.: Courtney Lee put up a modest stat line of eight points, three rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot against the Rockets on Friday, but the fifth-year shooting guard gave the Celtics great energy off the bench in his 27 minutes of action. He has been rewarded with another start, his ninth of the season, on Saturday in San Antonio.
Lee and Rondo have to deal with a tough backcourt, whether it is Tony Parker, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili or Gary Neal running things. Those four players, who are all capable of playing both guard positions, can hurt the Celtics in many ways if Boston’s backcourt is not on its game defensively.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Whatever momentum the Celtics might have built up heading into their three-game road trip was wiped away at the very first stop, when the Rockets easily handled the Celtics and gave heavy-hearted coach Kevin McHale a victory. Standing in the way of the Celtics and the start of another winning streak is none other than Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, the guys who picked apart the Celtics when these teams met in Boston in November.
The Celtics (12-10) have gotten better since then, but the Spurs (18-6) have as well. Before their current two-game losing streak, the Spurs won 10 of 11 games. Even with their recent skid, they are still giving Oklahoma City a run for the league’s best record. The Celtics are just looking for some consistency as they once again let a winning streak escape them. Boston has only four streaks of consecutive wins this season, and three out of those four were only two-game win streaks.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off 8:30 p.m. ET.
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