The Spurs came to Boston to give the Celtics their first taste of an elite team. For two vaunted offensive systems, points were hard to come by early on in the game. Tons of missed shots and sloppy turnovers plagued both teams in the first quarter. After 5 minutes the teams totaled 5 points. Ugly stuff.
Stevens went with the platoon bench unit for second half of the quarter. But there was little offense to be found, even with Isaiah Thomas in. The Spurs found their footing and established a double digit lead. After shooting a lowly 26%, the Celtics trailed 23-13.
Jonas Jerebko started the second quarter at Small Forward and became Boston's leading scorer in a matter of minutes. Not a great sign that 6 points is all it took to earn that honor though. Boston's offense still looked pretty stagnant throughout the half. There wasn't the ball movement that you would usually expect, but they missed plenty of open shots as well. Isaiah Thomas had a brutal half in that regard.
The defense was okay, but not great. They limited Duncan and Aldridge to a combined nine points, so that was nice. Manu Ginobili came in late in the second quarter and sparked a Spurs run. He provided the typical Ginobili mix of creativity and skill and added a few threes as well.
After their run, the Spurs took a 44-31 lead into halftime. A 13 point lead isn't impossible to come back from, but shooting 29% in the first made it look pretty daunting for the Celtics.
Jared Sullinger started the third and responded by nailing a three. Bradley got into the mix with a nice drive to the rim and a jumper. Just like that the Celtics were on a nice 8-0 run. The Spurs responded by feeding Duncan and Aldridge to extend the lead back to double digits.
One of the highlights of the night came on a fantastic effort play from Marcus Smart. He poked the ball loose from Tony Parker, then sprinted down the court to make a diving steal. From his back Smart then dished it Crowder for the easy layup.
The Celtics entered the fourth still down 10. After a rough game, Thomas opened the scoring with a crafty driving layup. He followed that with a much needed three on the next possession.
The Celtics slowly chipped at the lead, pulling to within 5 points with under 6 minutes left. It's been a staple of the Brad Stevens Celtics to keep fighting, and that was the case here.
Then LaMarcus Aldridge went to work on Jared Sullinger. He scored on three straight possessions. Sully wasn't playing bad defense necessarily, but he just couldn't affect Aldridge's shot. Aldridge then assisted on a Kawhi Leonard three and blocked Isaiah at the other end. It was a reminder on why he was the most coveted free agent last offseason.
The Celtics hung around though. With less than two minutes left, Avery Bradley threw down a monster dunk to keep the Celtics within 5 points. "Intestinal fortitude at its best" is how Tommy described it, and I'd have a hard time arguing with that. Unfortunately, the Celtics just couldn't get over the hump, and the Spurs put them away.
It's a good sign that this team doesn't quit. They fought back and made it close at the end. But you can't get out to an abysmal start against an elite team like the Spurs. There just isn't that kind of room for error against a great team.