What a game that was. With a short turnaround thanks to being on a SEGABABA and early tip-off, plus missing their top three scorers, it didn’t seem like the Spurs would have much left in the tank to battle the league-leading Boston Celtics. But once again, they showed they won’t bow down to anyone and, despite never leading, used a full team effort to put quite the scare in the defending Eastern Conference champions before falling 121-116.
Eight Spurs scored in double figures, led by 18 apiece from Tre Jones, Zach Collins and Josh Richardson, while the Celtics’ star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 63 points.
- I have no idea what the reason for the early tip-off was, especially on a SEGABABA. I checked the AT&T Center events page, and there’s nothing else going on that they need time to set up for. The high school football All-American Bowl was at noon at the Alamodome, but that wouldn’t impact this game (if anything it justified a more normal tipoff time), and there’s no other big national sporting event that they need to keep the timeslot open for since all the other NBA games are at their normal times. So again, not sure what’s up with this scheduling quirk, but it does little to reinforce the idea that the league is trying to schedule with players’ health in mind. End of rant.
- That being said, the short turnaround didn’t stop Jeremy Sochan from getting his hair color redone, which was desperately needed as his normal hairline had been invading the lime green lately. Now it’s what looks like a bleached blond — so maybe it’s just a bleach job ahead of anew color (I’m no expert). Anyways, speaking of Sochan...
- Sochan one-handed free throw tracker: 2-2. I’m having to work really hard not to go at a certain Sochan hater on Twitter who has constantly compared him to Russell Westbrook and said he has no faith he can be taught how to shoot threes. The extremely quick improvement on his FT’s personally gives me plenty of hope that he can and will expand that improvement out to the three-point line. Never doubt the Spurs’ ability to develop players.
- It’s a big leap from the league-worst Detroit Pistons to league-best Celtics in a less than 24-hour turnaround, let alone without Devin Vassell (knee), Keldon Johnson (hamstring) and Jakob Poeltl (we’ll call a spade a spade: rest). The Spurs, who added Keita Bates-Diop and Collins to the starting line-up, looked like they were playing shorthanded on no rest early, as they missed their first 7 shots, five of which were short. Overall, the Celtics got out to a 13-2 lead before the Spurs started finding their offense, but the bench came in and went nuclear, forcing a tie at 30 apiece just before the end of the first quarter.
- That being said, you don’t want to get into an offensive shootout with this Celtics team, and they quickly responded with a 9-0 run spanning the end of the first into the second quarter, forcing a Pop timeout. The Celtics maintained a lead of around 10 points for the majority of the second quarter, with their biggest advantage being shooting 9-15 from three, but the Spurs did an admirable job of never folding or letting the game get out of hand, entering the half “only” down 68-57, which very easily could have been much more.
- The Spurs began the third quarter with a 13-3 run to get within a point and had a chance to take their first lead of the game, but a Sochan jumper was waived off on yet another bogus moving screen call on Collins (it’s almost like the league has told the refs to specifically use him to set an example). The Celtics always had just enough of a response to keep the Spurs from getting ahead, but the Spurs also never gave in and entered the fourth quarter down by just four, 93-89. Tre Jones had 11 of his points in the quarter.
- The fourth quarter went much like the others, with the Celtics starting strong to get the lead back out near 10 but the Spurs slowing fighting back, with Richardson eventually tying things up on a three with 37 seconds left. Tatum responded with a jumper in the 2-for-1 situation, and the Spurs couldn’t come up with an answer, with Sochan missing a desperation three after a chaotic offensive possession. After the Spurs harassed the Celtics on the inbound pass, they finally got it to Tatum, who hit his first free throw with 4.9 sec left, but the Celtics were able to tap the missed second one back out to Malcom Brogdon, and he hit both free throws to secure the win.
- This wasn’t a great game by the refs. Of their many confounding calls on the night, perhaps the most confusing was midway through the fourth quarter when the Celtics seemed to commit a turnover on a shot clock violation, with the only signal from the refs being to waive off a made basket because it was after the buzzer. But then, it was suddenly Celtics ball with a foul call on Doug McDermott. It couldn’t have been after the play both because nothing happened and the Celtics started with a 14 second shot clock instead of 24, but if it was on the shot itself, then shouldn’t it be a shooting foul and free throws for Brogdon? My guess is they said McDermott somehow fouled Brogdon after the shot clock went off, so it wasn’t a shooting foul, but even then, the video review disputed it. It should have either been Spurs ball, Celtics Ball with 24 seconds, or free throws for Brogdon — really anything but Celtics ball with 14 seconds. It made zero sense to anybody.
- Reunion game results: Believe it or not, even though it’s been 11 months since Derrick White was traded, this was his first game back, and he got another classic Spurs tribute video. That being said, while he had a decent outing with 8 points and 11 assists, Romeo Langford and Richardson won the battle of the reunion game with a coined 32 points on 14-29 shooting against their old team and were a huge part of the Spurs’ final push at the end of the fourth quarter.
The Spurs welcomed back Derrick White with a special tribute video pic.twitter.com/F6mrrX34JP— Spurs Nation (@SpursNationCP) January 7, 2023
For the Celtics fans’ perspective, visit Celtics Blog.
The Spurs are headed to Memphis for mini-series against the Grizzlies, beginning on Monday. Tipoff will be at 7:00 PM on Bally Sports SW-SA.