Celtics-Spurs Live: Kelly Olynyk Struggles As C’s Fall 111-89

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Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 201410:44am

10:41 a.m. ET: Maybe it was the tryptophan, but for whatever reason the Celtics couldn’t close the deal on Friday. They’ll get another post-Thanksgiving shot this afternoon against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

The Celtics (4-9) come in losers of three in a row, including Friday’s missed free throw-fueled meltdown against the Chicago Bulls. The Spurs (11-4), not surprisingly come in cruising along, winners of six in a row.

Marcus Smart is expected to miss yet another game with a severely sprained ankle, joining San Antonio guard Patty Mills (shoulder) and center Tiago Splitter (right calf) on the shelf. And, as always, it remains to be seen which veterans Spurs coach Gregg Popovich actually plays and which ones he chooses to rest.

Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 1 p.m.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 201412:08pm

11:42 a.m.: Tyler Zeller will start in place of Kelly Olynyk at center for the Celtics, but according to coach Brad Stevens it has nothing to do with Olynyk’s recent shooting struggles.

“Defending Tim Duncan,” Stevens said, when asked about his thought process behind moving Zeller into the starting five.

Zeller is no Bill Russell (or Greg Stiemsma, for that matter) at the defensive end, but he is a bit more mobile and athletic than Olynyk. This will be Zeller’s first start of the season and the Celtics’ first change to their starting five since Evan Turner filled in at point guard Nov. 8 in Chicago while Rajon Rondo stayed in Boston to have a screw removed from his surgically repaired hand.

Zeller said he is ready for the lineup change, which could just be a one-game thing, but that he does not plan to change his approach.

“It means a lot” to start, Zeller said. “It’s something you always work for. But at the same time, I’m just going to go out and try to play hard and try to help my team in any way possible.”

The projected starting lineups appear below.

Spurs
Tim Duncan
Boris Diaw
Kawhi Leonard
Danny Green
Tony Paker

Celtics
Tyler Zeller
Jared Sullinger
Jeff Green
Avery Bradley
Rajon Rondo

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20141:03pm

12:50 p.m.: Not everyone is confident in the Celtics’ chances with Zeller starting at center.

Those concerns aside, Zeller understands the man who once received a “DNP-OLD” isn’t ready to go out to pasture yet.

“He’s not explosive, just because he’s starting to get older, but he can be an explosive scorer,” Zeller said. “He does a lot of simple things. He makes a lot of the simple plays, and all of the sudden he’s got a great stat line. So you’ve got to be solid and try not to give him anything easy.”

Duncan averages 19.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game against Boston over the course of his 17-year NBA career, so expect him to have another of those non-explosive “great stat lines” again this afternoon.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20141:19pm

First quarter, 6:29, Spurs 15-10: Exacting and focused, as usual, the Spurs are picking apart the Celtics, who are just doing their best to keep up.

It took more than two minutes for either team to hit the rim, with a series of swishes, airballs, turnovers and blocked shots tilting in San Antonio’s favor. Boris Diaw is getting the better of the early battle with Jared Sullinger, scoring six of the Spurs’ 15 points.

The Spurs are shooting better than 62 percent from the field and have four assists on their five field goals.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20141:26pm

First quarter, 3:05, Spurs 21-14: It didn’t take long for Kelly Olynyk to show why he was replaced in the starting lineup for defensive reasons.

Olynyk, who gave up his starting center spot to Zeller, checked it just as Duncan subbed out for the Spurs. Two possessions later, he lost backup Aaron Baynes underneath the hoop for a layup.

The Celtics’ defense as a whole has scrambled, as the Spurs tend to force opponents to do. Brandon Bass was first off the bench to try to throw another big, athletic body at Diaw, who appears to be motivated today.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20141:32pm

End of first quarter, Spurs 25-22: Despite Olynyk’s defensive struggles (Baynes has had Olynyk’s head on a swivel slipping past him for layups), the Celtics are within one possession after 12 minutes. Marcus Thornton has drained a pair of 3-pointers and the Celtics have committed just one turnover to help them stay close.

Diaw leads the way with 10 points after one, while Parker has already racked up six assists. Thornton is the Celtics’ leading scorer with those two triples and Rondo has dished out four helpers to lead Boston.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20141:39pm

Second quarter, 8:51, Celtics 32-27: The Celtics’ bench is outworking the Spurs’ bench, and Baynes’ physicality has woken up Sullinger.

A revived Sullinger is mixing it up down low, crashing the offensive glass and setting solid screens. Avery Bradley also made a hustle play, tracking down his own miss and saving it from going out of bounds. His pass to Sullinger for a top-of-the-key three helped Boston push into the lead.

Even the slumping Olynyk joined in, drilling a three from the wing to extend the Celtics’ advantage.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20141:47pm

Second quarter, 5:44, Celtics 38-32: The bench is doing its job for the second straight game, pushing the Celtics into the lead thanks to a 21-6 advantage over the Spurs reserves.

Evan Turner and Marcus Thornton each have eight points. The Celtics aren’t doing anything fancy, they are just moving around — both the ball and their bodies — and a moving target is a lot harder to stop than a stationary one.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20141:54pm

Second quarter, 2:37, Celtics 43-40: There’s definitely a feeling of the momentum swinging here, even as the Celtics continue to cling to the lead. They’re in the unsettling habit of leaving 3-point shooter Danny Green wide open, and so far he’s missed three of his five attempts.

Four of those five attempts have come without a Boston defender in his zip code, though, and the last one fell for him. The Celtics can’t afford to play it so fast and loose with such a dangerous shooter and just expect him to keep missing.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20142:02pm

Halftime, Celtics lead 49-45: You know things are weird when Tim Duncan completely whiffs on a point-blank layup.

The Celtics’ bench is roaring, outscoring San Antonio’s bench 27-6, with Brandon Bass, Evan Turner and Marcus Thornton leading the way with eight points each. Bass led the late-first half charge with his patented midrange jumper and some excellent defense on Boris Diaw and Duncan.

Diaw leads all scorers with 12 points, with Danny Green scoring 11. Green is 3 for 7 from deep, but the Celtics have left him absurdly open several times. That’s not a trend that can continue if the Celtics want to hold onto this lead.

The Spurs have not looked like themselves for long stretches. Not only are they just 6 for 15 from downtown, they have also committed 10 turnovers to the Celtics’ three. Their shooting accuracy has plummeted to 39.5 percent since a red-hot start.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20142:26pm

Third quarter, 5:59, Celtics 63-62: It’s tough to remember Duncan looking this wiped out before. He’s just 3 for 11 from the field and hasn’t been able to offer up much resistance when the Celtics take it to the hoop.

He missed another layup, and although he did bank home a nice turnaround hook over Zeller, he also was helpless as Jeff Green barreled down the lane for a dunk. Green is just 6 for 14 from the field himself, but he’s hit his last two shots by going to the bucket.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20142:33pm

Third quarter, 3:11, Spurs 69-67: Celtics coach Brad Stevens hinted before the game that Zeller starting in place of Olynyk would be a one-game thing, but it’s hard to see Olynyk playing much more often right now. The Celtics just can’t afford to have him on the floor if he’s playing like this.

Olynyk is 1 for 5 from the field and has been beyond bad defensively. After Bass cleaned up his missed hook shot at the offensive end, Olynyk hacked Kawhi Leonard for a three-point play to give San Antonio the edge.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20142:41pm

End of third quarter, Spurs lead 78-73: Finally, leaving Green open appears to be catching up with the Celtics.

Not even Brad Stevens could believe how open Green was able to get on a possession late in the third quarter, when Green was left all by himself in the corner. Now 4 for 9 from distance, Green leads the Spurs with 16 points.

Jeff Green (no relation) still leads four Celtics players in double figures with 15 points, but it’s be remarkably inefficient. Sometimes, he has been aggressive and good things happen. Other times, he sits back and he — and the Celtics as a team — are extremely easy to guard.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20142:49pm

Fourth quarter, 9:14, Spurs 85-77: Welcome back, Real Spurs.

The Other Spurs that were hanging around for most of the first three quarters have apparently decided to check out the Christmas tree at Quincy Market, because Manu Ginobili and Danny Green are spearheading a fourth-quarter push to put away the Celtics.

As usual, it’s nothing flashy. The Spurs are simply running through their sets and getting easy shots, while their opponent is beating itself. Case in point: Brandon Bass picking up a loose ball on the defensive end, taking it coast to coast — and hammering into a stationary Green for a charging foul.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20142:57pm

Fourth quarter, 6:09, Spurs 94-79: Kelly Olynyk’s day started out OK (with not having to start against Tim Duncan), but he probably can’t wait to get off the court now. Once again, the Spurs go straight at him with a pick and roll, and once again it’s an easy deuce for his man. In this case, it’s Aron Baynes.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20143:03pm

Fourth quarter, 4:19, Spurs 99-80: If you’re planning on hitting the pub for Patriots-Packers, you might want to leave now. Fans are streaming for the exits, clearly hoping to get to the Causeway Street establishments in time for kickoff.

There is … not much to say here. If you expected the Celtics to stay competitive with the Spurs and for Danny Green & Co. to stay cold, well, welcome to your first taste of NBA basketball.

But, honestly, we couldn’t foresee things looking this bad for Kelly Olynyk. This has to be a low point in his career. He’s struggled at both ends and his confidence looks kaput.

Operation: Rebuild Kelly’s Konfidence might need to be underway soon.

Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20143:12pm

Spurs 111, Celtics 89: The San Antonio Spurs do what the San Antonio Spurs do, trusting their system and eventually coming away with the win over the Boston Celtics.

Danny Green led the way with 18 points for the Spurs, overcoming a cold start from beyond the 3-point arc. Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and Aron Baynes joined him in double figures for the Spurs (12-4).
Jeff Green was the high man for the Celtics (4-10), who extended their losing streak to four games. Evan Turner, Brandon Bass and Marcus Thornton all hit double figures in scoring for a bench that helped push Boston into the lead, but a disastrous day for Kelly Olynyk (22 minutes, three points, 1-for-6 shooting, four personal fouls) was a far better indicator of the Celtics’ performance.
The Celtics are off to Atlanta, where they’ll face the Hawks on Tuesday night.
Ben Watanabe Sun, Nov 30, 20143:29pm

Spurs 111, Celtics 89: The San Antonio Spurs do what the San Antonio Spurs do, trusting their system and eventually coming away with the win over the Boston Celtics.

Danny Green led the way with 18 points for the Spurs, overcoming a cold start from beyond the 3-point arc. Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and Aron Baynes joined him in double figures for the Spurs (12-4).
Jeff Green was the high man for the Celtics (4-10), who extended their losing streak to four games. Evan Turner, Brandon Bass and Marcus Thornton all hit double figures in scoring for a bench that helped push Boston into the lead, but a disastrous day for Kelly Olynyk (22 minutes, three points, 1-for-6 shooting, four personal fouls) was a far better indicator of the Celtics’ performance.
The Celtics are off to Atlanta, where they’ll face the Hawks on Tuesday night.
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