Fourth quarter, :46.5, Spurs 87-83: The Celtics' biggest problem in rebounding is not the overall rebounding disparity. It's their inability to get a big rebound when they need it in this game.
The Spurs extended two pivotal possessions by outracing the Celtics for offensive rebounds. The Celtics have been outrebounded 15-7 in the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 2:33, Celtics 83-81: Rivers got some sideways glances from the fans when he opted to replace Garnett with Bass with five minutes on the clock. The Big Ticket wouldn't be ticketed for crunchtime?
Bass made the move pay off with two huge plays. He got his hands in to tip away a pass intended for Duncan, then tipped home a Bradley miss to give the Celtics a two-point lead.
Fourth quarter, 6:38, Spurs 77-76: Bradley and Rondo are making it impossible for Bradley to ever leave the floor. The Celtics defense was suffocating to begin the fourth quarter, and Rondo and Bradley led the way with six points combined and a steal each.
Garnett bobbled the ball but picked up his own fumble to score a layup that made it a one-point lead for San Antonio.
Fourth quarter, 8:20, Spurs 77-70: The Spurs may simply be too deep. Bradley and Garnett twice cut the Spurs' lead to just two points, but both times the Spurs' fresher bodies just kept up the attack.
The Spurs can go small, too, which might be the best explanation for the Celtics going small themselves. Bradley, Rondo and Allen might be a common pairing going forward, or this may be a one-time thing based on the Spurs lineups.
End of third quarter, Spurs 68-64: The Celtics turned up the tempo on the Spurs, resulting in a lot of missed shots by both sides.
The Spurs shot only 4-for-20 against the Celtics' mostly undersized lineups, while the Celtics shot just 6-for-17 as the new unit struggled to work together offensively. It all added up to an ugly quarter which the Celtics won 16-9.
Bass and Garnett nabbed five rebounds each in the frame as the Celtics actually outrebounded the Spurs 14-10.
Third quarter, 2:55, Spurs 66-59: The Celtics employed another small lineup of Bass, Pierce, Allen, Bradley and Rondo. The quicker lineup forced the Spurs to take bad shots and even rebounded well, but it was not able to make much headway in the deficit because nobody on the Celtcs could seem to put the ball in the hoop. The Celtics were shooting 4-for-13 from the field as a team in the third quarter
Third quarter, 6:16 Spurs 63-52: Brandon Bass had a rough couple minutes. He missed a dunk and was called for offensive goaltending for trying to catch the ball while he was hanging on the rim, then fumbled a pretty bounce pass by Rondo.
He did manage to get to the foul line when Duncan shoved him on an alley-oop pass from Rondo.
After getting only one rebound in the first half, Garnett grabbed four in the first six minutes of the third quarter. That did little to close the Celtics' 32-24 deficit on the glass.
Halftime, Spurs 59-48: The simple explanation for the Celtics' struggles in the first half would be trouble re-incorporating Allen in the offense, but that had nothing to do with it. The Celtics were dominated on the boards, 28-16, which gave them virtually no chance even though they shot 50 percent from the floor.
The Celtics were able to keep their deficit reasonable by forcing seven turnovers. That is a high number against the Spurs, who are the second-best team in the league at protecting the basketball with an average of only 13.3 turnovers per game.
The Good: Tim Duncan's demise was predicted as much as two years ago. It was greatly exaggerated. Duncan scored only four points, but he grabbed eight rebounds and held Kevin Garnett to 4-for-11 shooting. … Rajon Rondo could not have been more efficient on the offensive end. He hit five of his eight shots, including three jumpers, handed out six assists with only one turnover and registered three steals. He was in tune with Avery Bradley, who scored 13 points and played hounding defense on Manu Ginobili, although Danny Green was able to use his 6-foot-6 height to shoot over the top of the 6-2 Bradley.
The Bad: Kawhi Leonard got the quick hook after allowing six early points for Paul Pierce. The rookie out of San Diego State only played nine minutes in the first half.
The So-so: Ray Allen was somewhat rusty, as should be expected after missing six straight games. He missed both shots he took, but both went in and out. He was able to chip in with three rebounds. … Speaking of rebounds, Pierce led the Celtics with seven boards.
Second quarter, 5:14, Spurs 53-28: Rivers suggested he might try some things with both Allen and Bradley, and he showed off one potential wrinkle by playing Allen, Bradley and Rondo together.
It didn't go so well for the Celtics, but it was not necessarily that lineup's fault. The Spurs countered with the combination of Green, Bonner, Duncan, Leonard and Gary Neal. Neal knocked down a 3 to give the Spurs their largest lead of the game at 15 points.
Second quarter, 7:31, Spurs 44-36: Matt Bonner only really does one thing well, but he does it really, really well.
Bonner hit two 3-pointers in a 45-second span to help push the Spurs' lead back out of close range. The Celtics had tied it on a driving layup by Bradley, his eighth and ninth points of the second quarter, before the Spurs flexed their muscles again.
Sasha Pavlovic had put the Celtics within striking distance with five swift points off the bench, earning him a bit more playing time in the quarter
End of first quarter, Spurs 27-20: The Spurs got their lead up to seven points, but only after Rondo Ginobili'd Ginobili.
Rondo used Ginobili's patented fake-jumper, jump-into-defender for a foul move to get to the line. Rondo missed both free throws, though, making it all for naught.
The officials swallowed their whistles in the first quarter, which may actually have benefited the Celtics. The C's do not get to the line well, as we all know, and a grand total of three fouls for both teams combined in the first quarter helped keep San Antonio off the line as well.
First quarter, 3:34, Spurs 21-18: The Spurs made a shrewd substitution, replacing rookie Kawhi Leonard with veteran Stephen Jackson. That move cut off one of the Celtics' most successful modes of scoring, which had been Pierce victimizing Leonard for six quick points on 3-for-4 shooting.
Without Pierce driving to the hoop, the Celtics settled for jumpshots. The misses allowed the Spurs to get a head of steam as they outscored the Celtics 10-2 over the last 3 1/2 minutes.
First quarter, 7:07, Celtics 16-11: Allen did not touch the ball in the first five minutes, but his return worked out fine for the Celtics anyway.
The Celtics knocked down eight of their first 11 shots and recorded assists on four of those eight field goals. Rondo opened up a perfect 3-for-3, including two jumpers, and Pierce equaled the Spurs' entire team with three rebounds.
The Spurs, particularly Tony Parker, were vocally upset with the officiating in the opening minutes.
6:55 p.m.: Allen will be back for the Celtics, and all those passionate fans in their No. 20 jerseys will get to cheer for him when he is introduced with the Celtics' starters.
Rivers did not seem to think who started was a major issue, considering both are likely to get ample minutes against the Spurs.
"It's not a big deal, guys," Rivers said. "I know you all want to make it one."
The Celtics will need all the depth they can against the Spurs, who have one of the game's all-time great sixth men in Manu Ginobili.
5:50 p.m.: Any wonder why Tim Duncan is arguably the greatest power forward in NBA history or how DeJuan Blair shattered all expectations to become a productive NBA player despite serious injuries to both knees only needed to look onto the court of the TD Garden more than an hour and a half before tip-off.
Duncan and Blair were out on the floor long before their teammates. They were not just casually shooting around, either. Duncan went through a series of shooting exercises and Blair practiced catching the ball and going directly into a shot or post move.
Celtics rookies JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore stayed out on the floor to hoist a few extra shots after the Celtics' late afternoon walkthrough.
Avery Bradley is listed as the starter at shooting guard for the Celtics, who are expected to have Ray Allen back from a sore right ankle. Allen's status will be the first question asked of Celtics coach Doc Rivers during his pregame media availability.
The probable starting lineups for now appear below.
8 a.m.: Rajon Rondo has performed well against some of the best point guards in the league, and Wednesday may be his toughest individual test of the season.
Two proud former champions experiencing a renaissance since the All-Star break this season square off Wednesday at the TD Garden. The Celtics (30-22), winners of five straight, take on the Spurs (37-14), winners of eight straight and 13 of 17 games since the league's unofficial midway point.
Rondo will be matched up against Tony Parker, who is having one of the best all-around seasons of his illustrious career. Only two other points guards — Chris Paul and Deron Williams — surpass Parker's 19.3 points and 8.0 assists per game.
Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan will also face off in a matchup of 35-year-olds who are showing they still have more than enough left in their tanks. Duncan is averaging 15.2 points and 9.0 rebounds for the rolling Spurs.
Join us for updates and analysis from the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.