This was an unsurprisingly strange game. The Celtics are not far away from the playoffs in the East but are clearly in a transitional period and winning doesn't exactly benefit them right now. Coach Brad Stevens has been doing a great job of developing their young players while getting Rondo back in the fold but the Cs are a couple of years away from relevancy.
The Spurs were missing arguably four of their top five players and came limping into the last game before the All-Star break. The Spurs needed the win after dropping a game in Detroit, which is, I'm assuming, the only reason Tim Duncan didn't sit next Tony Parker on that flight to San Antonio. Unless something went wrong, the Spurs were going to win this one. It didn't, fortunately, and the Spurs got their fourth win in their last six games on the road.
The Spurs dominated early thanks to some stellar offensive play by Marco Belinelli. The Italian finished the opening quarter with nine points and five assists and generally salvaged a few Spurs' possessions by creating shots for others or converting tough looks. With Joseph starting, Pop moved Marco to the starting five and it paid off. The Spurs' defense was in control and only a couple of surprising Rajon Rondo three pointers allowed the Celtics to slowly erase an eleven point lead. After one, the Spurs led by six, 25-19
The second quarter saw the Spurs' bench struggle to contain their Celtic counterparts. Boston took the lead quickly after a 7-0 run and the teams would mostly trade buckets from their on out, with Mills and Diaw keeping the Spurs afloat. A buzzer-beating driving layup by Jeff Green cut the Spurs' lead to 48-44 at the half.
While it was the role players that were driving San Antonio's offense early, the second half belonged to Tim Duncan. Timmy scored 23 of his 25 points after the break on only eleven shots. Pop made looking for Timmy against Kris Humphries a priority and Duncan took advantage of the match up to first help the team withstand the Celtics' final push and then pull away.
After keeping the game close for three quarters, the Cs finally relented and the Spurs managed to get a double digit lead they would go on to manage en route to a 102-94 win. It wasn't pretty but it will do for now for the injury-ravaged Spurs.
- Rondo is taking more threes this season but we are still talking about a career 25% shooter going off for four threes on five attempts. The Spurs were sagging off him and he kept hitting shots, which kept an anemic Boston offense from completely falling apart. With Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger struggling mightily from the floor, the Celtics seemed doomed. But Rondo's uncharacteristically hot shooting, along with their great mid-range jumper accuracy as a team (15-29), kept them in it.
- Tim Duncan decided in the second half that the Spurs were to win this game and that was that. Facing a rebuilding team with a recovering star and with his own team missing very important cogs, Duncan was clearly the best player on the floor. And he played like it. I only have fading memories of watching Maradona on the pitch and I could only watch Michael Jordan play on the TV a few times a year here in Argentina. So I'm so glad I'm getting to witness Tim Duncan be this amazing at age 37.
- Marco Belinelli was two assists shy of a triple double, finishing the game with 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. With Joseph starting, Pop was wise to also insert Marco into the starting five, to provide the play making the team would surely lack. Belinelli responded by starting out hot and helping Duncan and Green close the game out.
- The Spurs that did well were the ones you would expect to. After a couple of weeks with great performances by deep bench guys, it was he players that get minutes when everyone is healthy that came through. Belinelli, Diaw, Mills and Green combined for 57 points, 17 assists and 21 boards. The only outlier from the mop up crew was Cory Joseph, who put together a pretty great all around game, contributing 11 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals.
- Shannon Brown, on his first game fresh off a new 10-day contract, played a little over 11 minutes, all in the second half after De Colo proved to be off. He still looks a bit lost out there but he got to dunk at the end of the third quarter...
GIF courtesy of SanAntonioGiant
...and it was glorious. I doubt he gets his contract guaranteed for the rest of the season with Ginobili potentially returning soon. But it was not a bad gamble by the Spurs to sign him
The Spurs move to 38-15 and are 4-2 in the Rodeo Road Trip despite having most of their best players out with injury at one point or another. The next few games will be tough, as the Spurs will battle against the Clippers, Blazers and Suns after the All-Start break before finally returning to San Antonio for a three-game home stand. Let's hope everyone has healed by then.
For the opponent's perspective, visit CelticsBlog