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San Antonio vs. Boston, Final Score: Spurs emphatically end losing streak in rally past Celtics, 96-88

San Antonio weathered brutal stretches in the second and fourth quarters but overcome a veteran Boston squad with an audacious 15-0 closing run

NBA: Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs
Keldon Johnson’s emphatic slam capped off a well-rounded performance in support of future All-Star Dejounte Murray
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Herculean closeout efforts from Dejounte Murray and Derrick White helped the Spurs garner this important victory. The Spurs nearly squandered its second straight 20+ point lead against the Celtics in the enervating home win. San Antonio scurried out to a 24-point lead midway through the first half due in part to the visitors’ ice-cold post-Thanksgiving shooting. However, the Celtics mounted a pair of its own runs to nearly stun the Spurs in this contentious and competitive affair. While the Boston bench spearheaded the first half-run, it was Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who provided the heavy lifting in the final quarter. However, their star turns were eclipsed by Murray and White.

Murray (29 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals), White (17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 blocks), and Keldon Johnson (17 points and 14 rebounds - his second double-double of the season) spearheaded the winning effort for San Antonio.

Tatum (24 points and 12 rebounds) and Brown (16 points and 4 rebounds) were bolstered by key contributions by Marcus Smart (13 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds), Grant Williams (7 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks), and Boston’s bench on the defensive end.

Observations

  • Tonight’s winning result supported the notion that the path to more victories needs to be paved with more vocal leadership - particularly from Murray.
  • After San Antonio made it 40-16 in the first half, how many of us Pounders harkened back to the come-from-32-points-ahead loss from April?
  • It feels like Al Horford has been with us for three decades. It turns out he actually has (2007-2021)!
  • During an early timeout, the camera briefly panned to a fan donning a #71 Spurs jersey. Has there every been a #71 on any San Antonio roster?
  • The first question I fielded at Thanksgiving Dinner? “Why are Jock (Landale) and (Joshua) Primo getting any minutes?!”
  • Primo did start the second quarter and contributed to a frenetic defense to help the Spurs go up briefly by 24.
  • Celtics big Grant Williams would have made a nice Spur.
  • Murray’s Magic: Murray also became the youngest all-time franchise player to nab 1500 rebounds.
  • Tre Jones has a very nice feel and timing in the paint among the trees along with a deft shooting touch - notching his first four baskets in a row.
  • Derrick’s D: On a lunging Schroder layup late in the second quarter, White erased the attempt cleanly. White turned away a driving Tatum at the rim in the waning minutes of the half.
  • Keldon’s Kitchen: After getting cut off in the paint, Johnson put a smaller Denis Schroder in the spin-cycle and willed a floater home midway through the opening frame.
  • Sequence of the Night (at least until the final two minutes): After finding Jones for a nice floater in the lane on a fast breakup, Murray blocked Enes Kanter at the rim on the other end late in the third period.
  • A frisky Spurs defense held Boston without a field goal on its first six attempts (and 15 of its first 16), while Murray found his touch in and around the paint. Both teams missed often, while Poeltl tossed a pass out of bounds well away from his intended target. Back-to-back threes from Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV gave their team a double-digit advantage. A parade of forays deep into the lane by the Spurs’ guards helped them extend the lead. To add insult to injury, Tatum attempted a tomahawk jam on Poeltl and launched the ball skyward after losing his grip. Boston stayed stuck at nine points 11+ minutes into the period and San Antonio left the quarter up 30-14.
  • An 10-0 run to begin the second period brought a disgusted Ime Udoka off the bench. After Murray took several swipes to the head by Marcus Smart in transition, he finished off the fast break with a layup and was stupidly given a technical at the other end for contesting the egregious no-call. In a worse head-scratcher, Murray was charged an offensive foul shortly after for his leg extending in a natural shooting emotion into the defender. Boston made its eventual run to close within single digits quickly behind white-hot shooting from Brown and its bench. After some rather curious substitution patterns, countless Spurs possessions stalled out with the wrong player holding the ball or getting stuck in vulnerable spots. A pair of Johnson field goals - the first an emphatic jam over Grant Williams and a floater over several Celtics pushed the lead back out to 13. After one of the strangest quarters in recent memory, the Spurs somehow exited the half up 52-37.
  • The ragged play continued well into the third period, with the Spurs looking uncertain on each ensuing possession. Boston tried to funnel its offense more through Brown to some success. Halfway through the frame, the Celtics again edged within single digits on a Smart fadeaway. Poeltl picked up his fourth foul, which forced Drew Eubanks to play extended minutes. Johnson worked through significant contact to get free throws and a floater late in the quarter, while Tatum took over in the halfcourt for Boston. Despite several long misses and bone-headed turnovers, Bryn Forbes drew an offensive foul on Tatum. Walker IV countered a Tatum three with one of his own. San Antonio went into the final frame only up seven.
  • A Tatum finger-roll in transition brought Boston perilously within two early in the fourth quarter. Williams’ open three gave the Celtics its first lead of the night at 74-72. Williams then ended a chaotic sequence with a heavily contested layup. In a sign of the shift of 50/50 balls going Boston’s way, Tatum followed a wayward three with a layup over several Spurs to give them a seven point lead.
  • In the waning moments, Murray and White provided an emphatic and stunning response to the Tatum/Brown tandem. A Murray leaner in the lane and floater on the left block sandwiched White’s free throws to pull the Spurs within one. White converted a degree-of-difficulty pull-up over Al Horford to give San Antonio back the lead, while a Murray one-hander pushed the advantage to three. After a Tatum fade fell short, Murray confidently iced the game away with a fallaway jumper over Schroder to make it 93-88 and the Celtics failed to score thereafter.

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

San Antonio gets two much needed days off to practice and recuperate before taking on a resurgent Washington Wizards squad led by Bradley Beal on Monday night at 7:30 CT.