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Celtics out-executed by the Spurs again

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Despite strong spurts, the Celtics were unable to get over the Spurs drought.

NBA: Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Going up against the Spurs with a full roster seems like a daunting task, but without their best scorer and on a bit of a skid, the Celtics had to go out and try to see if they could win in San Antonio. The results were similar to what you may expect, Celtics fight hard, but again had no answer for the elite execution that the Spurs threw at them. Chances are no one is going to remember this game in February when the team has had it’s full roster back and looks more like the team we were expecting, but until then, we’ll just have to live with frustrating losses like this.

The game started very different from the first meeting. Though the Celtics got out to a quick 11-7 run, the Spurs came roaring to take a 20-14 lead. Offensively, the Spurs non-stop movement on the offensive end seemed to be a legitimate problem for the Celtics, highlighted by defensive stoppers Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart getting beat on backdoor cuts. By the time Boston reserves came in, the Celtics had given up a 15-5 run and were down 22-16. Because of the Spurs size, the Celtics opted to bring Olynyk and Zeller off the bench first as opposed to Jonas Jerebko. However, the second unit again proved unable to generate much offense without Marcus Smart in the game, and the Spurs were able to build on the first units success to take a 32-23 lead by the end of the quarter lead by 8 big points from Manu Ginobli. The only good thing about that quarter was Jaylen Brown’s disrespectful steal and slam.

To begin the second quarter the Celtics brought in Smart and Jerebko to add more ball-handling and versatility. Though initially the offense went ghost and the defense continued to struggle with the Spurs movement, Celtics were able to stay afloat led by some aggressive play from Terry Rozier. The 2nd year guard made his presence felt on the boards, hit a big three, and was able to be a lot more aggressive offensively once Smart was back in the game to stabilize the offense. Mid-way through the second, Rozier already had had eight points, three rebounds, and a block. Building off of the momentum, the Celtics were able to tie the game at 40 apiece after a mini 5-0 run by Avery Bradley who was absolutely on fire in the first half. Naturally, a theme when you the play the Spurs is your ability to execute on both ends of the court. After fighting back to tie up the game, the Spurs began executing the hell out of the Celtics. Every slow rotation was capitalized on, every missed assignment was capitalized on, and the next you thing know, you’re going into halftime on the wrong end of a 16-7 run. By halftime the Celtics found themselves again down nine (47-56), with Bradley and Rozier combing for 26 of their 47 points, and Horford/Olynyk/Crowder combining for 4-15 shooting.

The second half promptly started with two straight turnovers by Boston. That seemed to basically foreshadow the rest of the quarter. Pau Gasol turned into a #PointPau, Kawhi was Kawhi, and the Celtics had no answer for the Spurs execution. By midway through the third the lead had already ballooned to 15 points, and it looked like the Celtics were ready to get ran out of the gym.

However, in true Celtics fashion, Boston regained it’s footing a bit behind Al Horford and were able to cut the lead back to 6 by he 3 minute mark of the quarter. The Celtics continued to carry that momentum near the end of the quarter by the minute mark brought the deficit down to 1 after back to back three’s from Horford and Crowder, and a pair of free throw’s from Bradley. A Gasol three near the end of the quarter gave the Spurs enough breathing room before the end of the quarter, but the damages was done. Using an 18-7 run during the last 6 minutes of the third quarter, the Celtics were able to cut what was once a 15 point lead to a 4 point deficit heading into the fourth.

Similar to the beginning of the third quarter, the Celtics started off the final frame slow and allowed the Spurs to go on a 9-0 run and build their lead back up to ten.

The Celtics went punch for punch with the Spurs after San Antonio’s initial run, but about midway through the quarter the C’s still found themselves down by 11. After the Spurs got the lead back up to 15, the Celtics fought again to get the lead back down to seven (95-102). However, that was the closet the Celtics ever got again, and the Spurs comfortably closed it out 108-101. The Brad Stevens era remains winless against San Antonio.