Celtics Notes: Gregg Popovich, Spurs Impressed By Boston’s Late Surge

by NESN Staff

December 6, 2015

The Boston Celtics didn’t come away with a win Saturday night, but if you’re looking for a silver lining, they earned the praise of one of the NBA’s model franchises.

After trailing the San Antonio Spurs for the majority of the contest, the scrappy Celtics launched a furious comeback late in the fourth quarter that fell three points short of earning them a victory.

Boston has lost both games it has played against San Antonio this season, but both games were single-digit defeats. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had some high praise for Brad Stevens before Boston’s Nov. 1 loss at TD Garden, and he was quick to credit the Celtics coach and his club after Saturday’s close call.

“They are a tough group to guard,” Popovich said, via MassLive’s Jay King. “Brad does a fine job. Those guys really buy into the way that he wants them to play.”

The Celtics were unable to get over the hump when it counted, but they made their fair share of big plays late in the game, a fact that wasn’t lost on Popovich.

“(The Celtics) executed what they wanted to do better than we did (down the stretch),” he said, via King.

Let’s dive into a few more notes from Celtics-Spurs.

Click for the Celtics-Spurs Wrap >>

— The deep ball played a key role in Boston’s comeback, and rookie R.J. Hunter was right in the middle of things.

Hunter knocked down two 3-pointers over a span of 59 seconds as part of the Celtics’ furious late run. The C’s shot well from distance all night, especially Jae Crowder, who was a perfect 5 for 5 from the field and connected on all three of his threes.

“R.J. hit the big shots,” Stevens said in a postgame interview aired on CSN New England. “Amir (Johnson) played fantastic in that moment. We had a lot of guys that gave us a chance to win.”

— About Johnson: The veteran forward continues to make an impact on both ends of the floor.

Johnson racked up 11 points and 11 rebounds Saturday to earn his second double-double in three games. Johnson also saw plenty of Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, and his defense on the All-Star big man drew plenty of praise from Stevens.

“He was great,” Stevens said of Johnson. “I thought he was the most active guy in the paint — blocking shots, rebounding. He’s our best matchup for Aldridge, so I thought he did a good job. Aldridge hit some really tough shots.”

— The Celtics have had quite the struggle solving San Antonio, but they’re not alone.

Saturday’s loss was Boston’s ninth consecutive defeat to the Spurs, who haven’t lost to the Celtics since March 31, 2011. Perhaps the C’s can take solace in this stat: San Antonio has yet to lose at AT&T Center this season, with a perfect 11-0 home record.

— David Lee participated in the Celtics’ shootaround Saturday but was a late scratch because of a right heel contusion, the team announced before the game.

— James Young had quite the eventful day Friday.

The Celtics swingman was assigned to the Maine Red Claws in the early afternoon, only to be recalled to Boston less than two hours later. The quick back-and-forth apparently was the result of the club not knowing Avery Bradley’s status due to a minor quad injury, and it created a bit of an awkward situation for Young.

“I was literally at the gate about to walk in (to an airplane bound for New England),” Young said Saturday, via MassLive.com. “I got up early and everything. Mentally was heading back to Boston. Then, next thing I know, I’m back (in San Antonio).”

Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@BDCCeltics

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