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Little Things Go Celts' Way This Time Around

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A Daily Babble Production

For the second time this week, attention to detail made all the difference for a road-tripping Celtics team.  This time, it helped the green prevail rather than costing the C's a winnable game.

When the Celts went to Milwaukee on Sunday, they cost themselves dearly in three areas: turnovers, offensive rebounds allowed and team foul shooting.  In the Alamo last night, a combination of improvements in those areas by the green and a surprising bit of ineptitude on the Spurs' part led to an 80-77 victory for the Celts.

Turnovers have been a problem for this Celtics team all season, but that was not the case in Friday night's grind-it-out contest.  The Celtics rank 28th in basketball in turnover rate, giving the ball away on more than 17 percent of their possessions this season.  Against a Spurs defense that is efficient (fourth in basketball) but doesn't execute a lot of takeaways (last in opponent turnover rate), the Celts took extraordinarily good care of the rock.  They gave it up just four times, which accounted for less than five percent of their possessions.  While the Celtics forced only nine turnovers, that's still five extra chances to score.  In a game in which both teams shot nearly identically miserable percentages from the floor (41.5 percent for the Celts to 41.6 for the Spurs) and totaled fewer than 90 possessions, that's huge.

On the offensive glass, the Celts played San Antonio to a wash at six second chances apiece.  That's a far cry from the 21 o-boards the C's allowed in Milwaukee on Sunday.

And then there was the foul line, a less than charitable stripe for the evening.  Though the Celts did not shoot a great percentage (69.2), they took only 13 free throws and made nine of them.  Those issues were dwarfed by a 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) performance from the Spurs that featured six straight misses to end the game, each of which occurred with the game tied or the Celts ahead by two in the final two and a half minutes.  As The Guru remarked after the game, the chance of two exactly 80 percent foul shooters missing six straight shots between them at random is one in 15,625.  Michael Finley shoots 80.9 percent and Tony Parker 80.2 percent this season, so the chances were even a bit slimmer than that. 

But I'll take it with a sly smile.

The Celts' care with the basketball along with fortuitous free throw mishaps for the Spurs add up to a grueling win for the green.  Cool.

Other postgame mumbojumbo:

  • Blockfest '09 for Kendrick Perkins!  Tony Parker's quick feet and full head of steam driving through the lane gave him some trouble in helping on the interior on a few occasions, but other than that, he was great defensively.  Perk limited Tim Duncan to a rough 6-for-15 shooting night and came up with five big blocked shots.  The Spurs only recovered to score on one of those plays, and the Celts grabbed defensive rebounds on two of them. The big fella managed to do it all without recording a single personal foul either in 34 minutes.  The 5-for-7 shooting performance served as an added bonus.
  • Bruce Bowen's help-side block on Paul Pierce in traffic in the fourth quarter was an excellent play. 
  • Despite his late-game free throw woes, credit Parker for causing the Celtics' defense nightmares all night.  He glided into the lane and to the rim with an impressive ease and grace, and his finishing just seems to keep getting better.
  • Huge shot for Large Baby.  Good look by Paul Pierce, good shot by the Infant.  That will only continue to enhance PP's growing trust in his teammates and Glen Davis' confidence.
  • Great third quarter for Kevin Garnett: He hit his jumpers and finished a lay-up and dunk in transition for a 10-point period on 5-for-5 shooting.  
  • In fact, as Jeff noted after the game, it was great to see KG back out there, period.  Welcome back, Big Ticket.