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What we learned from the Spurs narrow win over the Celtics

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Kyrie Irving is a bad man. Then again, so is LaMarcus Aldridge

NBA: Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night’s game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics was a prime time showdown. Kyrie Irving’s squad has set the east on fire through the first third of the season, and they entered the out-of-conference matchup intending to make the Spurs their next victim. Fortunately behind LaMarcus Aldridge, a balanced scoring burst from the back court, and some bald guy who always seems to make a play when his team needs it most, the home team was able to squeeze out a 105-102 win over a team that might be playing the best basketball in the league right now.

You never want to invest too much into a regular season game (let alone one played in December), but this had to have been a huge boost to San Antonio’s confidence. With Kawhi Leonard set to make his return to the hardwood, this team has an opportunity to head into 2018 with a vengeance. Until then, here are some takeaways from an exciting of basketball.

Observations:

  • Aldridge abused a flat footed Al Horford and Boston’s undersized front court. LA started the game in dominant fashion and never took his foot off the gas. It was odd to see the offense not flow through him more in the second half, as he continuously shredded the double teams Celtic coach Brad Stephens sent his way.
  • Tony Parker’s climb back to full strength progresses with every game. The Frenchman has consistently gotten to his spots and appears loose right now. His jumper is fluid, and he’s making a case for San Antonio’s entire training staff to get a pay raise because this is the most pep the veteran point guard has had in his step in close to three seasons.
  • Davis Bertans had a tough night shooting the ball, but his confidence stood out to me. The sharpshooter seemed unfazed by the bricks, and kept grinding in his 20 minutes of court time. That will have to continue if he’s going to stay in the rotation. Bertans is expected to space the floor and shoot the ball. If he’s not shooting Pop will sit him. As much as his defense has improved, it’s not his calling card.
  • Pau Gasol recovered from a slow start in the first half, and put together yet another strong performance. The 7-footer dominated the glass and out-physicaled the Celtics on the low block. His range, passing ability, and his ability to score with his back to the basket make him a matchup nightmare against certain teams. It’s worth noting the passion that he has played with this season. There are few guys that match his excitement on the floor, and it’s obvious the Spaniard is enjoying every second he spends on the court.
  • Manu Ginobili toyed with an overly aggressive Marcus Smart whenever the two were matched up. It was fun to see the veteran make an example out of the overzealous young buck. Oh, and did I mention there is no other player in the league that I’d rather have take the lost shot than San Antonio’s 40-year-old shooting guard?
  • Patty Mills has strung together some nice games. It hasn’t been flashy, but the Aussie ball handler as done a great job of quarterbacking the second unit, and spacing the floor when closing the game with the starters. As long as he continues to stretch the floor he will be a major asset for this team that can go through the occasional offensive drought.
  • Rudy Gay is doing a much better job of not settling for 18-footers. When he is attacking the hoop he seems to get in a much better rhythm shooting the ball. What also stood out to me was his to passing out of the double team. When #22 gets hot, it opens up a whole new dynamic to the offense. As the season wears on we’re starting to see the pieces come together, and Rudy’s ability to score the ball is a big part of that.