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The Read & React: could the Celtics be Spurs East?

Two buzzer beating 3s from Manu Ginobili were the difference in last night’s loss to the Spurs.

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

Stevens is still an ATO god: Even though Kyrie Irving thought his tying corner three was “cash money,” it didn’t fall and the Celtics lost a heartbreaker last night against the Spurs.

It was a a good play call. With two timeouts in his pocket after Manu’s 3, Brad Stevens got a good look at how the Spurs were going to cover the inbound pass. San Antonio had a foul to give, so they weren’t going to allow someone to come off a screen clean.

On the first play, the Spurs face-guarded everything. It looked like a classic double screen where Kyrie was going to come off a pindown from Rozier and another pick off Al Horford. Instead, Kyrie was the decoy as he re-screened for Rozier. Because so much of the action was moving away from the basket and the Spurs could have fouled Rozier to take some time off the clock, Stevens opted to use his final timeout to draw up another play (knowing what Pop wanted to do).

In the second ATO, the Celtics lined up in the same picket fence formation. Rozier stunts like he’s going to screen for Kyrie again, but instead, Kyrie trails Jaylen Brown along the baseline. Because his defender, Patty Mills, is shielding him away from the basket, he doesn’t see Jaylen Brown’s back pick in the restricted area until the last second. It’s enough time for Irving to get to the corner, side step the closing Rudy Gay, and get up an uncontested three point shot.

The shot didn’t go down, but last night was just another example of Brad Stevens’ brilliance with a clipboard and the game on the line. All you can hope for is a good shot, and the Celtics got one.

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

Spurs East: Whenever we play the Spurs, I daydream about who the Celtics will target in the coming summers when they’ve only got mid-level exceptions to sign. Who will be our Rudy Gay, who had an efficient 15 & 8 for San Antonio? I think about whether or not there any career Celtics on the roster right now. Could Marcus Smart play into his late 30s—even 40—like Manu Ginobili, who hit last night’s game winner? I wonder if Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge have built enough cred in this league to attract free agents to Boston AND take a discount, or do they need to hang a banner or two to be legit?

There are whispers that Gordon Hayward could potentially return before the close of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, but Danny Ainge still has the DPE in his pocket or could swing a minor deal for another rotation player. Is there a P.J. Brown out there that makes this Celtics team a legit contender in April? The irony is that right now, I’d trade for almost any Spur.