It's always interesting to watch the Spurs play mediocre teams. Not terrible teams -- those games usually turn to routes early -- but opponents who have some talent yet are outclassed by the league's elite. The Celtics have a nice collection of players and are a couple of additions away from being competitive in the East but have no shot of beating the Spurs unless they play a perfect game or the the good guys shoot themselves in the foot. And San Antonio has the tendency to do that every once in a while.
As the game began, the starters showed the talent disparity between the two squads. The threes were falling and the defense was doing enough to keep the Cs at bay. Boris Diaw was spectacular early on, doing a bit of everything on offense and Parker was keeping the ball moving and creating for others. As the benches checked in, the lead ballooned to nine and could have been bigger if not for the fact that Boston is a well-coached team that has young guys that hustle.
The role of the bench is key in this type of games. There's always an element of chaos involved with all-sub lineups, an identity that is infused by one of the most unpredictable players in the league, Manu Ginobili. The bench will either blow the thing wide open against inferior players or play erratically and let opponents back in the game. The latter happened against Boston.
Manu was a turnover machine and the defense was horrendous. Marco Belinelli and Ginobili were being outplayed by Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner, of all people. The Celtic bigs were hitting three-pointers and their guards taking care of the ball. Once Duncan checked back in the Celtics lead was seven after going on a 20-8 run. The starters stopped the bleeding and chipped away at a deficit that reached nine points at its apex to go into the break down only four despite a decidedly bad first half.
The Spurs tied the game relatively early into the second half but the Cs were not ready to concede and got it back. Fortunately, the good version of the bench showed up to save the day. Pop adjusted by not playing Marco Belinelli after his defense got exposed in the first half, first leaving Leonard on the court and then subbing in Danny Green in his stead. That, and Manu playing more in control, made a huge difference. The defense was tighter and the offense more precise. The Spurs finished the third up five after a 33-point quarter and there was a sense they were about to impose their will.
Ginobili spearheaded the effort early with a 5-0 run of his own creation and then a lineup of Cory Joseph, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner and Aron Baynes put the game out of reach for Boston by going on a 9-2 run and getting the lead to 15. Ginobili and Parker returned to close it for good but it was actually Aron Baynes who did it with this play:
Once Bangers hits a three-pointer, you know it's over. Garbage time ensued and the Spurs finished the second half scoring 66 points and outscoring the Celtics by 26 en route to a 111-89 win, their seventh in a row.
- Pop is back after missing two games due to a minor medical procedure. That's the good news. The bad news is that he had this to say when asked about Splitter:
This doesn't sound good. Pop on Splitter: "I don't know about Tiago's situation. We're very confused by it."— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneySAEN) noviembre 30, 2014
- Tony Parker didn't even attempt a three-pointer, so this game was a total waste of time. He didn't have it on the scoring department (3-10 form the field, nine points) but he was great at creating looks for his teammates, finishing the game with nine assists.
- Tim Duncan also struggled with his shot (4-12) but finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks and generally controlled the paint whenever he was on the court. The best part? He only played 25 minutes, so he might play on Monday against the 76ers.
- Timmy didn't have to play much in large part because Aron Baynes had a great game. It's amazing how much better Baynes has been acting as the dive man over the past couple of games. He's making contact and turning immediately after screens and his chemistry with Manu has improved dramatically.
- Boris Diaw was amazing in the first half, when the Spurs needed him most. He finished the first two quarters with 12 points on six shots, seven rebounds and three assists. He only scored three more in the second half but it was on a three-pointer early in the third to tie the score. He is sorely missed on bench units, in which he often was the stabilizing force thanks to his post game, but he has been filling in well as a starter.
- Manu was as bad as Diaw was good in the first half. Four of his five turnovers came in that time span and he went scoreless. He turned things around in the second, scoring seven timely points and only turning the ball over once. Marco Belinelli, on the other hand, didn't get the benefit of the doubt by Pop this time and sat until garbage time after a bad first half.
- Everybody talks about the best starting back courts in the league (It's Golden State's and it's not even close, by the way) but no one talks about the best starting wing duos in the league. Danny Green (18 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Kawhi Leonard (12 points, six rebounds, three secondary assists, two steals) would rank pretty high on that list. They might even top it.
- The Celtics are in that awkward phase in their rebuilding in which they have veterans like Brandon Bass and Marcus Thornton hanging around and taking minutes from the young guys. But they have some nice pieces and I'm starting to feel they might be better off keeping Rondo and Jeff Green, developing the promising youngsters and hoping they can land a star once the salary cap explodes. It's an interesting situation to monitor because they have so many possible ways to go about their team building.
Vine of the game
Who am I kidding? The Vine of the game is the one of Baynes' three-pointer. But this play also deserves to be appreciated.
Kawhi Leonard picks up his dribble barely inside the arc and gets to the rim with two long strides. Giannis Antetokounmpo does it about once a game but there's a reason his nickname is The Greek Freak. Leonard might not have the otherworldly athleticism of LeBron James or Paul George but his great body control and long limbs help him make up for it.
The Spurs are now 12-4 for the season and will look for their eighth win in a row on Monday when they face the Sixers in the second of a four-game road trip. Since only Danny Green played more than 31 minutes, it's possible no one gets the night off tomorrow.
For the opponent's perspective, visit the great CelticsBlog