Celtics vs Spurs: From the press box

All night long, but especially in the fourth quarter, Boston just couldn't stop Tony Parker - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Hash

There aren't many teams that I dislike as much as the Boston Celtics. I don't know what I hate the most: the chest-thumping bravado of Pierce (who's a terrific player that I just can't stand), the scowling tough-guy act of Rondo (who has taken the assist, the most selfless act in basketball, and made it something selfish), or the look-at-me attitude that permeates nearly everything Kevin Garnett does. Add to all of that the fact that they picked up the player I most love to hate in the entire league, Jason Terry, and you can see why a loss against the Celtics takes more out of me than a defeat at the hands of nearly anyone else. Of course, that also means that a win against them is worth more to me than just a single mark in the "W" column.

Yup. Last night was a very pleasant evening to spend at the AT&T Center. And a great result from my first game to watch in person this season.

Having said all of the above, I should probably note that my dislike for the team in general, and the players specifically, probably goes about as far as most NBA fans' professed dislike of Bruce Bowen did back in the day. Which is to say that if any of the aforementioned hated players ever found their way into a Spurs jersey, I would probably be able to learn to appreciate them pretty quickly.

Except for Jason Terry, that is. I just wouldn't be able to accept that.

Shoot Around Notes

  • In between sets of baseline 3's and FT's, Nando De Colo was being run. This is something I've never seen the coaches do with any of the other players on the team. But the younger assistants who were working with him would take him up the stadium steps, out into the concourse, back in to the arena and down a different set of steps after every couple rotations of three-pointers and free throws. Not sure if this was because his conditioning is being focused on or whether there was some quote game unquote that they were playing with him. But it was definitely a unique deal that I had never seen it done before. Aside from that, Nando was shooting his baseline threes VERY well. Also, there's definitely something in his free-throw stroke that the staff is working with him on because he was being SO careful on his free throws; like he was perhaps concentrating on keeping his elbow in.
  • Cory Joseph was practicing his floater with Chip; very routine. He was shooting it left and right handed; quite unusual. He was absolutely lights out in his pick and roll practice. His was a very long warmup. I have never seen anybody worked out that long before the game. It was close to half an hour that they had him shooting from all over the court, behind and inside the arc. After all of that, he took a ton of free throws. He looked gassed by the end and I'd have been absolutely blown away if he'd logged a single minute of game time. Finally, his three looks very flat to me; not enough arc at all.
  • There were two or three guys pressuring Danny Green's dribble - starting at half court, which was another thing I'd never seen before. I asked Andrew McNeill, of 48minutesofhell, if they had been doing that with him this year, and he said it was new to him too. They had him practice his rebound slam as well as an alley-oop which was fun to watch.
  • Patty Mills was working on ultra-long threes. As long as his foot was on the "S" of the "Spurs" logo at half court (probably about 30' from the bucket) he was lights out. Any further and his accuracy seriously dropped.
  • DeJuan Blair messed around quite a bit during his warm-up. Everybody tries at least one outlandish shot while going through their routine, but he's the only one that doesn't seem to take this time as seriously as everyone else does. There were multiple occasions during his workout with Chip when he suddenly broke off from what they were doing and shot and extremely high parking shot that had really no chance of going in.
  • Here's the last thing I took down before going to Pop's pre-game presser. "Duncan is ON tonight." (Now that you know how the game went, you can tell how good an indicator practice is for what happens in the game.)

Standard Pop Pre-Game Quote

I don't know what he'll be wearing, but he's not going to play.

- Pop after being asked whether Kawhi Leonard would dress out.

Game Hash

Here are the notes I took down during the course of the game:

Getting back to defend a Boston mini-break Boris Diaw took a big tumble with 3 min left in the first that was ignored. Pop called a timeout right away, got up and griped out the ref about the no call .

Chris Wilcox set a viscous and illegal pick on Manu that sent him crumbling to the court where he lay for several minutes before he got up. From my seat, it looked like it could have been his collar bone. Thankfully, it wasn't.

Nando entered the game for Manu and got a steal right away to start a fast break. He uncorked a beautiful pass to a streaking Green for a slam attempt that just missed.

Jason Terry had a buzzer beating jumper at the end of the first quarter. Man, I can't stand him.

Everybody was setting moving screens last night, but Garnett's didn't just move; he would jump out toward the screenee to make contact with them. I can't believe that's considered legal.

Matt Bonner enters the game with just under 9 minutes left in the 2nd. The game's about to change. One way or another.

2 calls against Matt - a foul and defensive 3 sec - and a eerily pretty dribble drive and dish to a cutting Tiago for a layup, reverse of course. And then an 18 footer for Matt off great ball movement. His shooting inside the arc is much better this year than it's ever been.

Second half

When posting up, Tiago slips his hips past his defender in a very effective way which allows him to sneak past him and drive directly toward the basket. It's one of those things that's kind of hard to describe, but very effective.

Seems like Rondo's been nearly invisible so far.

It's a bad idea to leave Gary Neal open when he's standing at the 3 pt line.

Garnett just can't let a shot go in after a whistle. As Parker's fouled, the Spurs continued to move the ball around, albeit in what looked like slow-motion compared to games speed. It was Tony to Splitter, who passed to Duncan, who took a glacially-paced jumper while the refs were communicating the offense to the scorer's table. KG was waiting at the rim to grab the shot out of the air as he always does. I might not hate this particular thing about him. Haven't completely decided.

It's also a bad idea to leave Danny Green alone. Also, he makes perfectly timed cuts.

Nando with another steal that leads to a gorgeous play where TP drives all the way out of bounds before spinning back around to face the court and pass to Duncan. De Colo really does a great job of playing the pick and roll while disrupting the passing lane.

Nando gets an assist from Splitter and shows great body control in making a layup over his shoulder after he'd already passed the basket. Very nice.

Fourth quarter

Nando blocks Courtney Lee, and Jesse Blanchard of 48minutesofhell says, "Did that just happen? Poor Courtney Lee."

It seems hard to believe that Leandro Barbosa used to be called The Blur. Now it seems like you could just call him The Smudge.

De Colo just assisted a basket by Tiago. He passed the ball to the empty space behind Splitter while Tiago sealed KG off from an empty lane and it seemed like no one on the court moved as they watched the path of the ball. Was this because they assumed that the ball was going to no one and would just go out of bounds for a turnover? I'm not sure. Regardless, as the ball came down, Tiago waited until the ball had just about hit the ground, before he spun around from contact with KB to catch the ball and lay it in. A very pretty play.

Jeff Green just froze Boris with a fake and drove right by him for a dunk. It was one of those plays that people like to describe with "He just went by him like he was nailed to the floor."

I like it when Tony takes corner threes this year.

I like it when Tony takes over too.

Tony Parker just did the most Manu-esque thing I've ever seen him do - his hanging, sideways layup to make the score 91-81. But it never would have been if Boris Diaw hadn't pulled the ball out of a scrum under Boston's basket (his 2nd such play of the night) and if Nando hadn't stripped the ball away from a Celtic big after a Spurs miss.

I realize now that Tony hasn't just taken over the game in the 4th Q, it's been his all night long but he had just left it in the care of the rest of the players' until he decided to claim what was rightfully his. What a performance by the Wee Frenchman.

This Thing Was Over When...

... Tony took over in the fourth quarter. There are plenty of times that I've said that Duncan or Manu have "taken over" and while Tony has carried the team through stretches (even with clutch performances) I've never really felt like he's taken over a game because I reserve that term for when a player is exerting his will on both ends of the court. Well when Tony entered the game with nine minutes left in the game and the Spurs up 79-73, he took over.

He assisted Boris Diaw on a jumper, rebounded Jason Terry's missed three-pointer, immediately made his own three in the corner, got two more buckets (that's now seven straight Spurs points for him) and then after Nando De Colo got a three, Parker made another layup, stole the ball from Rondo, missed an 18 footer and then got another steal from Paul Pierce -- and that was the end of the game because even though there was over two minutes left, the Spurs were up 96-82 and both teams pulled their closing units.

By the Numbers

  • Tony had an excellent +/- of +17, which would seem to jibe with his incredibly Efficient 8-14 shooting for 22 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds and 4 steals, but ...
  • He was outdone by Timmeh who had a +18 even though he struggled from the floor and only got 5 points on 2-13. Of course he also had 12 rebounts, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Not bad for an old guy.
  • Besides Duncan, the only Spurs unable to hit at least half their shots were Danny (4-10) and Patty (1-3).
  • Boris' box score has a case of the twos. 22 minutes, 2-2 from the field, 2 offensive rebounds, 2 defensive, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls and he was +2. The only thing that stands out is his 3 assists. Oh well.

Odds & Ends

  • A fun game to play when Matt Bonner is in the game is to see if he gets a stat per minute. He usually finds a way to get in the mix, whether it's to the Spurs benefit or not, and last night was no exception. He took 6 shots, had 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 fouls, for a total of 12 stats in 15 minutes. Not quite there, Matty. Try again, please.

Going into the Next Game, the Spurs Need to...

...Get healthy. Rumor has it that Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson will be ready to play. That's a good thing since it's the Thunder on Monday night, in Oklahoma City. Both SA and OKC have 19 wins, but our rivals to the north only have 4 losses to the Spurs' 6. Of course, we've only had ten home games while they've had 15. We'll see where things stand once the Thunder have had about as many roadies as San Antonio has.

For more rambling and Spurs talk, follow me at @jollyrogerwilco on Twitter.

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