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San Antonio vs. Boston, Final Score: Spurs outlast the Celtics in wild game, 110-106

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The Silver and Black pick up a victory over an Eastern Conference contender.

NBA: Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs executed down the stretch of a tightly contested matchup, narrowly edging out the Celtics, 110-106, after relinquishing a double-digit second-half lead.

DeMar DeRozan led the Silver and Black with 21 points, closely followed by 20 points from LaMarcus Aldridge. Meanwhile, Boston’s dynamic duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for 49 points.

Observations

  • San Antonio force-fed LaMarcus Aldridge the ball to begin the game and ended up committing two uncharacteristic turnovers. That decision stifled the offense and resulted in just three points on three shots through the first six minutes of the first quarter. On the other end, the seven-time All-Star once again found himself in no man’s land after getting trapped into a switch that resulted in a Daniel Theis three-pointer and this hilarious screenshot.
  • Rudy Gay forced Semi Ojeleye into what I genuinely believe was the first eight-second half-court violation I’ve ever witnessed. The turnover wasn’t too impactful since the Spurs coughed up the rock within seconds of receiving it, but it was one of those rare sequences that make you do a double-take.
  • Devin Vassell has recorded more steals than fouls and more blocks than turnovers this season, and no one in NBA history has ever accomplished that stat line. We’re still admittedly incredibly early into the regular season schedule, though I could envision San Antonio’s first-round rookie maintaining this sort of excellence. Vassell plays with the calculated confidence and constant control you would expect from a ten-year veteran, and I’m prepared to say he might be one of the five smartest basketball players on the roster.
  • Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, and Dejounte Murray have spent north of 20% of their time as primary defenders guarding current/former All-Stars this season. And that trend continued for the young Spurs as they took turns covering Kemba Walker, Tatum, and Brown. Despite holding Boston’s trio of prolific scorers in check in the first half, San Antonio couldn’t stop them from taking over the game from the third quarter on.
  • Johnson is a lovable ball of chaotic energy, bowling through defenders and harassing his assignments on the other end. Although he may not always put on the most fundamentally sound display, nobody out-hustles the second-year wing. He’s been wildly entertaining this season, and his crunch time crossover to slam was undoubtedly my favorite play of the game. I’m so glad San Antonio didn’t pass on him a second time during the 2019 NBA Draft.
  • Call me a hater, but I think San Antonio’s statement edition jerseys are the antithesis of what their title suggests. The washed-out grey is dull, the Spur is comedically huge and awkwardly placed, and the embroidered Jumpman logo is perhaps my least favorite finishing touch. They’re miles ahead of the metallic silver threads from the early 2000s, but that’s not saying much. Let’s hope Nike cooks up something better than these uninspiring unis down the road.
  • Patty Mills couldn’t get going beyond the arc, but that didn’t stop the Australian combo guard from getting on the board. Though he didn’t knock down a single trey, he finished with 12 points on 54.5% from the field. Despite his cold spell, his magnificence as a marksman got me wondering where he ranks among the greatest sharpshooters in league history. So, I did some stat snooping and stumbled upon a couple of stunning discoveries. Mills not only ranks 88th on the all-time three-point leaderboard, but he has more trifectas than Rasheed Wallace, Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, Allen Iverson, and Michael Redd. Pretty ridiculous stuff from a former late second-rounder.
  • Head coach Gregg Popovich told the media Derrick White wanted to play before the game, and the Spurs probably could have used his two-way prowess to avoid putting me on the brink of a panic attack. It was probably a wise plan for San Antonio to hold their recent contract extension signee out until this weekend, but I can hardly wait to see what the team is capable of once they get 100% healthy for the first time this season.
  • San Antonio played some of their most inspired defense of the season to close out the second quarter, going on a 13-0 run highlighted by turning back-to-back steals from Patty and Lonnie into four points in the final 6.4 seconds of the period. They entered halftime with a 61-47, which is pretty astounding considering they trailed by nine points earlier in that same frame.
  • Dan Weiss talked about how DeMar leads all players in usage percentage when their team is behind by a single possession, and the four-time All-Star came to the rescue with a go-ahead basket down the stretch. And though DeRozan is still San Antonio’s best go-to option when the game is on the line, Dejounte made an equally clutch play with his patented poke away slam to give San Antonio a four-point cushion with 16.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
  • While the Silver and Black were one of the least efficient teams in the NBA at converting shots in the paint coming into this one, they left their struggles scoring on the interior behind them. San Antonio drained 27 of their 33 shot attempts inside the painted area, which according to my calculator, comes out to a whopping 81.8% success rate. And they won’t be anywhere near the bottom of the league in this category much longer if they keep this up.
  • Boston turned a season-high 20 turnovers from the Spurs into 16 points, and though it didn’t cost them the game, San Antonio can’t afford to be sloppy with the ball and expect to beat top tier teams. The Silver and Black committed the fewest giveaways in the NBA thus far, so this is probably just an outlier performance. Let’s hope they go back to protecting the rock ASAP.

For the Celtics fan’s perspective, visit Celtics Blog.

The San Antonio Spurs return to action on Friday when they play host to Nikola Jokic and the surging Denver Nuggets.