Game Notes: Spurs at Celtics
Rondo and Allen do it all.
by Jonathan Evans
Typically, when the two top teams in the League square up, it’s easy to tell what each one is about. But coming into their match-up with the East leading Celtics, the Spurs are facing a bit of an identity crisis. Yes, they have the best record in the League but they just gave up 128 points in a loss to the Knicks. For San Antonio, many of the names are the same but the games have changed.
“Right now, we’re a good basketball team,” Popovich said before the game. “We need to step up defensively… It’s something I haven’t figured out, we just go through periods.”
For San Antonio, there’s no better barometer than the team waiting for them in the TD Garden. Rajon Rondo’s triple-double (12-22-10) and Boston’s blistering shooting from the field led the Cs to the 105-103 win. Here’s how it went down.
Early on, the Spurs are slow to rotate and help on D. Ray on the wing drives by Manu and goes virtually untouched on the way to the tin. Clearly there’s something amiss as Pop calls two timeouts within two minutes of game time and shuffles the lineup.
A guy on the jumbotron rocking a David Robinson jersey gets heartily booed. Somewhere Hakeem is smiling.
Boston getting any shot they want in the flow of their offense. Allen bottoms another in-rhythm jumper giving him 10 first quarter points on 5-6 shooting.
Corner three from Jefferson knots the game. Judging from their demeanor, you’d think they were down 10, but as sloppy and uninspired they’ve looked on defense, they’re still right there.
Looks like Tony Parker decided to show up. Parker’s drives and floaters pace San Antonio here in the second. As marvelous as Double-R has been at setting up his Celtics teammates, TP has been just as good in putting his stamp on the game. Parker’s getting through to the heart of the Celtics’ defense and making things happen to pull San Antonio out to a five-point advantage. Insert drunken Boston fans’ trite Eva Longoria joke here.
On the other end, Pierce hits back to back jumpers to knot up the game at 47. With supreme footwork and seductive pumpfakes that would make any old basketball soul smile, Pierce continues to get the shots he wants despite everyone in the arena knowing exactly how and where he wants those shots.
At this point, Ray Allen can’t feel his face. Another curl off a screen leads to another perfect feed from Rondo which leads to another in rhythm jumper that finds nothing but the bottom of the net. Game high 18 for Allen so far off 9-12 shooting from the field.
Rondo almost gets his 15th – yes, 15th – assist in spectacular fashion. On the block, Shaq spins free for the over the top feed from Rondo. The pass ended up a little too high for the Big Fella who was unable to convert the one-handed alley. The 2000 Western Conference Finals were a long time ago.
Simply put, Rondo is running a clinic against the Spurs. Leading a break, he pulls up at the top of the key and fakes a behind the back pass to a spotting up Allen and instead whips an underhand pass to Pierce for the in rhythm three and his 19th assist. With three minutes left in the third, he’s assisted on all but one of Boston’s nine field goals this quarter. Rajon Rondo’s “got more dimes than that Sprint lady.” (Big L reference anyone?)
Minutes later, assist number 20 is almost as pretty as 19. In transition, Rondo drops the ball off behind the arc with an underhand scoop pass that leads Ray right to the spot for the pull up three. All night long, Rondo’s been doing such a beautiful job putting the ball in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, that seemingly all Ray has had to do is follow through. Boston closes the third on a 10-2 run to pull ahead by five.
For the Spurs, a lot of 1-on-1 play and a stifling Boston defense stalls their offensive flow. Minutes later, Ginobili answers the call and takes the game over for San Antonio with back to back threes to make it a one-point game midway through the fourth.
Consecutive jumpers from Baby give him 23 points. As great as Big Baby and the Rondo-Ray tag team has been, they’ve certainly benefited from some lackluster defense from San Antonio. Bruce Bowen in his bow tie could do a better job of getting through screens than these current Spurs.
After a close fourth quarter, a breakaway layup from Allen gives Boston a nine point advantage with less than a minute left to seemingly wrap this one up. But after a Ginobili three, a couple of steals, and two missed free-throws from Ray, it’s suddenly a two-point game with seven seconds left.
Out of the timeout, Ginobili is doubled off of screen and Pierce blocks his desperation heave. Ballgame.
After losing this heavyweight slugfest, the Spurs are left with many of the same plaguing questions about their identity. They allowed the Cs to shoot 61 percent from the field, the most they’ve allowed since the Regan Era, and yet they only lost by two. Boston’s proving to be the class of the League lead by a point guard hell bent on destroying the League one assist at a time. While the Heat and Lakers continue to dominate the narrative, basketball fans are in for a treat if these two teams meet for it all this June.