The Boston Celtics fell flat in the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs despite a special performance from Jaylen Brown, posting a season-high 30 points on 67% shooting from the field, losing 120-111.
Competitive from the tip, you could see how well-coached both teams are behind Brad Stevens and Greg Popovich by the crisp execution on both ends. Although both clubs have struggled at different times this season, this was an exciting and competitive matchup. Just high-level execution on both ends throughout the first quarter.
Except for this. San Antonio fell asleep here:
While both teams were good, the Celtics were good-er, finishing the first quarter with a 23-17 lead. Jaylen Brown attempted homicide at the rim twice (getting fouled both times) en route to 7 first-quarter points to lead the team. Although San Antonio led the rebounding battle 17-11 at the end of the first, Boston’s scorching hot 33.3% shooting from the field eclipsed San Antonio’s 22.2% shooting in an exciting shootout. Shooting poorly is actually quite good, especially if your team shoots just a little less poorly than the opponent.
Jaylen Brown continued his dominance and brought the bench with him as the second unit extended the league. Strong defensive rotations, the extra pass and a poignant and consistent attack in transition characterized the second quarter as Brown and a patient Terry Rozier led the attack. Brown set a career-high for points in a half by dropping 18 points on 6/8 shooting in 13 minutes in the first two frames.
One play that really stood out to show how effect Brown was with his movements came with a spectacular off-ball cut:
Boston let the foot off the gas pedal a bit as LaMarcus Aldridge (14 points in just the second quarter) caught fire, letting a double digit lead fall to just a 52-46 edge at the break.
Despite DeMar DeRozan’s disappearing act all game, the Spurs continued to ride LaMarcus Aldridge back into a competitive game. The Spurs looked much more like a Popovich team in the second half with zesty offensive execution, mitigating Kyrie Irving’s own offensive burst for the Celtics. Derrick White stepped up to be the Robin to Aldridge’s Batman, making big plays on both ends, including a block on a Kyrie Irving fadeaway out of the post.
Boston had a tougher time trying to execute out of the halfcourt against an inspired San Antonio defense. Comparatively, Boston’s swiss cheese defense made a reappearance after taking the second half off against Memphis. The Celtics essentially rolled out a red carpet to the rim, and after catching fire earlier through tough shots, LaMarcus Aldridge (finishing with a game-high 32 points) made Boston pay at every turn. The Spurs went on a 20-2 run which, I’d argue, is not ideal.
Terry Rozier was the only reason why the Celtics didn’t go down by, like, 50 in that third quarter, hitting three 3-pointers in a row toward the end of the quarter. The Spurs scored 46 points in the first half. They also scored 46 points in just the third quarter, carrying a 92-82 lead into the final period.
The fourth quarter was quite entertaining with both teams trading buckets. The issue with that is that the Celtics started the quarter down 10. Davis Bertans (17 points) and Patty Mills (11 points, three 3-pointers) lead the Spurs bench with timely shooting. Kyrie Irving may or may not have lost and replaced his eye during a kerfuffle with Marco Belinelli, and Terry Rozier subbed in to leave a bad taste in viewers’ mouths after rescuing the team earlier. He was the only reason why the Celtics didn’t go back up by, like, 10 in the fourth quarter (I’m joking, but he was quite bad in that last period).
Ultimately, Davis Bertans buried the Celtics with a dagger 3-pointer with under 2 minutes left, and that was all she wrote. Boston sent off 2018 by wasting a spectacular performance from Jaylen Brown, falling to 21-15. They take on the Minnesota Timberwolves next on Wednesday at 8PM EST on ESPN.