With the way the Celtics have been playing as of late at home, some of us may have forgotten the way this team played prior to their five game home winning streak. They have a tendency to only show up for half of games, and tonight was one of those nights. Down 44-43 to the Spurs at halftime, the Celtics needed to come out in the 3rd quarter with some fire and get some momentum going their way. Unfortunately, the opposite happened as the Spurs were the team that jumped out to a 12-0 run to start the 3rd, and never looked back, winning 94-73.
The 73 points were the lowest of the season, as were the 27 field goals made. The Celtics shot a measly 37% from the field for the game, and scored a total of 30 points in the second half. In fact, their scoring went down in every quarter, starting at 23 points in the first quarter, and ending at just 13 in the fourth.
"It was one of those nights, guys," said Coach Doc Rivers. "We played awful. I thought they wanted to play. You know, the first quarter I thought was terrific. I thought the bench came in in the second quarter and just everybody went iso (isolation). There was no ball movement with that group. And then after that I thought the starters came back in, got us back into the game, and then the third quarter was awful for us."
Rivers said that all they worked on in practice yesterday was rotation, but clearly it did not work.
"I just thought everybody just held onto the ball and was going to do it themselves," Rivers continued. "Playing against the Spurs, you know, it's the extra pass. You're not going to beat them off the bounce, you're just not. And it seemed like we were hell-bent in trying to do that."
Most of the fans at the TD Garden came tonight to see Celtics basketball, what they didn't expect was seeing that Celtics style of basketball shown by the Spurs instead of the Celtics.
"They did a lot of things to us that we want to always do, that we always talk about doing," said Ray Allen who had only seven points on the night. "Just the quick ball movement nobody holds the ball, no hesitation, you just make the quick play. Defensively they kept us out of the paint. They swarmed us."
"Like I said, they made the extra effort plays tonight that we usually make," admitted Paul Pierce. "The team that you saw, San Antonio, the way they played is usually the way we play and we just got an old fashioned butt whooping."
All that being said, members of the Celtics see this as being more of just a bump in the road than anything else.
"I don't look at this as a step back for us," said Pierce. "I look at this is just one of those games you get out of your system, hopefully it will be the last going into these last 9-10 games. You know, you have nights like that, and we haven't had too many nights like that all year when we've been healthy so that's the way I look at it. I expect us to play a lot better basketball from here on out."
"What we're doing, the mission that we're on doesn't change," said Allen. "We feel good about the direction that we're heading in. Yeah, everybody hated it. Everybody hated the feeling that we had, but they beat us. We can shake their hand, take our hat off to them, but we have to just prepare for next game."
Doc Rivers said that if he looked at the stat sheet and saw that Tim Duncan only had eight points and nine rebounds, he'd like his chances of winning the game. At the same time, if he saw that Manu Ginobili had 28 points and seven assists, he wouldn't be as confident. Unfortunately, Ginobili burned the Celtics all night, capped off by that dagger three pointer he put in at the buzzer to end the third quarter.
"When Ginobili has points and assists they usually win," said Rivers. "And 28 points, seven assists is a great indicator for them. That means his hand print- Ginobili dominated this game. All the loose balls that he kept alive, that he didn't get credit for, defensive plays- I thought he single-handedly was the will of the game."
Ginobili was key to the Spurs' hot start in the third quarter. He had a hand in the first three scoring possessions of the quarter, assisting on two field goals, and draining a three pointer to put the Spurs up by nine all within a little over a minute of play.
"I thought when he was in there, for the 35 minutes he played, he was aggressive," said Kevin Garnett who finished with 12 and 10. "We just weren't scoring the ball. He was setting guys up, getting guys open shots. He's been playing well over the last four or five games, we were well aware of that. He just got into a groove where he was scoring and setting guys up for the long ball."
Nobody understands Ginobili's importance to this team more than Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich. With the injuries that the Spurs have had this season, Ginobili has answered Popovich's call.
"Manu's been playing great, you know, for the last month. He's basically taken over the team. He's been the same Manu we've had when we won championships, so you know without Tony [Parker] it's really important for somebody to step up like that and he's done it."