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A Steady Decline: Celtics 73, Spurs 94

 

ESPN Recap48 Minutes of HellPounding the Rock

For the first time in a long time, the Celtics absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, quit tonight.  While the entire second half may have been really bad for the Celts, they did not officially bow out disgracefully until eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  Even the consummate fire starter, Kevin Garnett, seemed to fizzle out despite pleas from the Celtics’ coaching staff to keep fighting.

Usually, the Celtics starters and their bench ping pong between spurts of playing well.  People talk about how dangerous the Celtics will be once their starters and their bench put together a game where both parties play up to their abilities.  Tonight, the opposite was true.  The Celtics tried to get by their Western Conference counterparts without exploiting any quickness advantages.  Instead, tonight’s game was a test to see whose knee’s were less rickety and whose team had more veteran savvy.  The Spurs undoubtedly edged the C’s in both categories.

Many will say that the Celtics loss tonight is indicative of their playoff potential, but I disagree.  The Celtics lost big to the Spurs, but the Celtics weren’t even in this game from the beginning.  The first quarter ended with the Celtics on top 23-19, but they only shot 43% from the field.  Ray Allen was well on his way to a poor shooting night, coming up empty on four close encounters with the rim.  Conversely, the Celtics faked everyone out with a solid defensive performance, limiting the Spurs to a near 32% shooting mark and only ten total rebounds.  This quickly faded by the end of the second quarter, where the Spurs managed to increase their FG% by nearly 5 points and made up the difference at the line, attempting seven more freebies.  The Celtics continued the pattern of laying third quarter eggs by only putting 17 points up on the board-unsurprisingly, this is not the lowest they’ve scored in a quarter this season.  The Spurs countered with getting Ginobli going on the offensive end and torched the C’s with 33 total points in the third.  This kind of discrepancy cannot be understated.

After the game, Paul Pierce called it an “old fashioned butt whoopin’” and Garnett echoed that sentiment by admittedly coming “out flat in the third quarter.”  Despite Garnett clearly playing with heavy legs, he still managed a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.  Pierce also gave a solid effort, finishing with 18 points despite only shooting 4-11 from the field.  The rest of the starters didn’t even sniff double figures.

The endgame tonight boils down to a few simple factors: the Celtics came out flat in the third quarter, the Celtics spent too much time trying to get Ray Allen going when he clearly wasn’t getting it going, and the Celtics did not make open shots.  The Celtics could have made the Spurs pay for their lack of scoring by hitting the open shots in the first but they just could not take advantage.  The Spurs hit their offensive stride and the rest of the game wrote itself.

The biggest surprise tonight was Doc deciding not to put Tony Allen on Manu Ginobli.  With every other wing defender in Green displaying athletic deficiencies, it would seem like a “no brainer” to send Tony in to harass one of the only guys scoring the ball for the Spurs.  Allen has also been playing well as of late, but was given a shorter than normal leash tonight.

The lone bright spot for the bench tonight was Shelden Williams.  The seldom-used Celtics big man came in and did his thing to the tune of 11 points in 11 minutes.  However, in a game that begets many “despites” Williams was not without his.  Williams held the advantage in height on DeJuan Blair, the quickness advantage on Tim Duncan, and the age advantage on Antonio McDyess.  With Kendrick Perkins sidelined with knee tendinitis, Williams admirably stepped in and showed everyone that he has zero lateral quickness.  He could not hedge anyone out on perimeter screens, he could not slide over to help on the interior in time, and he couldn’t stay with anyone resembling a quick first step.  I like a lot of things Shelden does, but he’s not in there for a reason; he’s too statuesque.

That’s it for now, I’m sure Zach and Brian will have more analysis tomorrow.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com How bout them SPURS Celtics!!!

    So is Manu the man or what? He tore Ray Ray up!!!!

  • http://48minutesofhell.com How bout them SPURS Celtics!!!

    Oh and how about that 3-poit buzzer beater?

  • Ed

    C’mon son, solid analysis as always, but clean up the numerous typos/misspellings/etc.

  • I love Green

    Hey Ed, Shad up.

  • Jay Cutler

    Saying this game isn’t indicative of whether the Cs will be come playoffs is wishful thinking.

    I’ve seen them try to turn it on against the Cavs and just roll over once a new half begins. When KG rolls over and plays dead in a game as noted in this post, this entire team is kaput. That I think we can agree on.

  • http://mundoalbiceleste.blogspot.com arcade

    This is my most favourite duel between the East and the West as I’m a fan of both of this team from their respective conference.

    Instant classic performance from Manu, for me this is happening during the right time of the season for him. Anyone who knows his NBA will admit that this level of confidence from him can help the Spurs to make a great run in the playoffs. He brings all the much needed energy that this Spurs has been lacking for a long time. Now we’re about to see something special from the, considering they have made a strong from the win and their previous games against Cavs. All they need to do is wait for Parker to recover and discover his best. Then maybe, 2010 might just be the Spurs year again. If not, I’ll bet it will happen in 2011.

    http://mundoalbiceleste.blogspot.com/2010/03/pipita-scores-in-madrid-derby-manu.html

    Truly the most memorable moment for many people must have been the block Manu made on KG. Well I will agree with the majority but that’s because in my humble opinion it was watching how the old warrior stood up bravely despite hitting hard on his back in the floor. That’s is the stuff of legend by all means.

  • Jrmz

    We didn’t lose on defense. Manu may have scored alot but we held em under a 100 points. Our shots just didn’t fall and many teams experience situations like those. Just ask the Lakers in their game against the Thunder only last week. Their shots didn’t fall at all and they lost just as badly as we did. Days like these happen..No team is perfect enough to always play great defense and great offense..not even Jordan’s 72 win team was perfect. For me, I take this loss as just one of those freak losses. We hardly ever lose this badly even throughout this turbulent season. To start worrying about a loss like this is pointless because alot of teams have been torn up this season. Not just the Lakers I mentioned before but the Mavs as well and the Spurs. Heck the Celtics did it to the Blazers. Such games happen, and unless this is like the 3rd game in a row it has happened, I’m not about to worry too much.

  • DRJ1

    @arcade– That block by Manu on KG was a good one… he was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. But the reason KG fell backwards was NOT Manu’s block, but Hill’s foul. Hill pushed him backward on the elbow when KG was already IN THE AIR. KG was helpless as a result.

    That was a no-call by the refs, when it was arguably a flagrant-1 – like any foul should be when a guy fouls another guy in mid-air and sends him crashing to the floor.

    Refs were terrible in this game. Par for the course… or maybe a little worse.

  • DRJ1

    I agree that this game reveals little about these teams’ playoff prospects. Cs lost for 2 main reasons, and some minor ones:

    1) Biggest reason: Cs missed their shots. Not just 1 or 2 guys…EVERYBODY. And not just contested shot… WIDE OPEN ones too. The single exception: Shelden Williams. But Shelden ain’t gonna win any games for this team, ever.

    Why did they miss so many shots? No particular reason. It happens.

    Usually, the Cs can fall back on their D and hope to stay in the game. Didn’t happen tonight because of the 2nd reason.

    2) Second reason: Spurs hit their shots. Even the crazy ones, even the Hail Marys. And not just Manu, (almost) EVERYBODY hit shots. And not because the Cs’ defense was particularly bad, it wasn’t. They just got hot. It happens.

    Btw… Ginobli did not, as some have said, “beat our 12 guys” single-handedly. He had a good game, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly great. Here’s a useful comparison: Most would agree that DWade is a better player than Ginboli. Much better. When the Cs last saw Wade, on Feb 3, he hit 11/16 shots (69%), including 2-4 from the 3pt line. In this Spurs game, Manu hit 9/19 (47%) and 2-8 (25%) 3-pointers. No comparison, right? Wade’s performance has it all over Manu’s.

    Yet the Celtics won the Heat game rather handily. The difference? Against the Heat, Cs shot 49% from the field, and hit 6-16 of their 3pt shots. In the Spurs game, they shot a horrid 37% overall, and an absolutely ridiculous 1-14 (7%) from the 3pt line.

    3) Another, more minor reason for the loss was Rondo’s mediocre play. He failed to make Manu pay for leaving so much real estate between them, and was in general a bit slow, even lackadaisical at times. Bad game for Rondo makes a Celtics win very, very hard… even when they’re otherwise playing well.

    So that’s it. No big deal. Even in the playoffs, even the best teams have bad games. You can’t win them all. Did they give up sometime in the 4th? Sure… wouldn’t you? This game was NOT gonna go their way. Within minutes, even Doc gave up and cleared the bench. It’s still a regular season game, ya know.

    They can learn from this game (e.g., figure out the best response when the opponent backs off Rondo as Manu did). And move on.

  • Sophomore

    This game left a terrible taste, for the reasons you so described in your post. Sure, as some people have said, they missed shots. But it was the way they reacted that was so discouraging. You expect a very young team that’s missing its shots to go into a funk, but not a veteran team. And the Cs just went into a shell and became a flat, flat team. Manu is a very good player, but no way he should wreak as much havoc as he did last night, on either end of the floor. Where, as you say, was TA?

    Also, if I compare the defensive intensity and intelligence of the Spurs and Cs, the Spurs come out ahead. Their doubling was timely and smart, and while the Cs did manage to create some open shots, most of the time they had to work hard and often were left with a tough, contested shot even after two or three rotations.

  • Carlos R.

    Just when you think the Celtics are starting to play like a title contender they suck all the air from your lungs with very poor performances like this one, AT HOME AGAIN!! . Maybe it’s time to understand that, being realistic, this is not our year. I’m done with this team.

  • matthew

    have been done with this team since january. and i’ve been a celts fan since i was a kid, watching an old larry bird still trying to dominate despite a bad back or something… *sigh* 2nd round exit for these dinosaurs, unfortunately.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    Hill definitely fouled KG on that Manu block, by the way. Whoever pointed that out (DRJ1, I believe) is right.

    Manu is a bad, bad dude.

  • DRJ1

    @Carlos, matthew– I understand if you’re disgusted with the totality of the C’s regular season performance this year… but this particular game should not serve as your last straw. Besides the stuff I mentioned earlier, there’s the simple difference in motivation between the 2 teams: Spurs are fighting to stay out of 8th seed which would mean having to face the Lakers in the first round, while the Cs are guaranteed no worse than 4th seed EVEN IF THEY LOSE EVERY GAME from now on. Quite a substantial difference there….

    At this point, every game is nothing more than practice. You must accept that, and we all must wait for the playoffs.

    (Yes, 3rd would be preferable… but that’s a relatively small matter, given how unpredictable the playoffs are anyway.)

  • pinsla

    losing by 20 at home to the Spurs????
    this is beyond SAD

  • http://celticshub.com Stephen

    Some of these posts here are wishful thinking. The truth is that the Celtics once again played uninspired basketball against a team that really aren’t contenders. Even when the Spurs get Parker back they are a long shot to go deep into the Western Conference playoffs.Tim Duncan is well past his prime and the fact he was able to sit and watch this game for a good part of the second half has to raise some flags. I’m reading alote here saying this is only one game. Well—newsflash people—There’s been too many of them.Losing on a night where your offense stinks happens.Raising the white flag however has become all to common for the C’s–especially at home. Many of our players–including Rasheed–who has no room to comment on anything right now–insist they will be able to turn it on come playoff time. Is there someone on this board who can explain how they are going to do this? I’m here on the West Coast and have to listen to all the Lakers fans telling me how the C’s are old and finished. Well, reality is setting in and now I’m thinking maybe their right. I’m starting to feel sorry for fans that spend their hard earned money to go and watch this team play and then get rewarded with this slop.The C’s deserve to get booed of the court until they start to man up. Time is running out!!!

  • Sophomore

    To amplify Stephen’s comments: Put a fork in the Celtics. They’re done.

  • Jrmz

    @Stephen :
    Lakers fans telling you how the Cs are old and finished? Their record after the All-Star break has been almost the same as ours. We’ve suffered one major blowout since the AS break and that was against the Spurs, the Lakers had their own major blowout loss against the Thunder. Since when did they get the right to call the Cs old and finished when the Lakers are playing on the same level as us. And whats the points in listening to Laker fans since they would say we’re old and finished even when we go on massive win streaks.

    And speaking of the Spurs not being contenders, Hollinger’s power rankings have them at fourth. Over the last 10 games, they’ve played better than the Nuggets, the Jazz, the Thunder, the Mavs..all those your teams to go deep in the playoffs? Lets not forget that as bad as the Spurs look at the start of the year, Pops usually has his team make their surge later in the season which is about now. Plus they had more to play for than us since they are trying to get out of 8th seeding against the Lakers whereas our seed is either going to be 3rd or 4th and playing either the Heat or the Bucks is going to be similar for us. As for Ginobili, the dude dropped 30 in the win against the Cavs before they came to us. He has been ridiculously hot the entire month, dropping 38 against Atlanta and another 38 in a previous Cavs game. Those were all great defensive teams too and he still ripped them apart. However, what makes it different for us was the fact that we are a team based on our defensive prowess and how do you argue that our title chances are gone when we held the Spurs to only 90 points. Like I said, every team has its poor offensive days. Just look at the Hawks, they’ve lost 2 games having been held at just 76 points. Christmas Day we held the Magic to 77 points, Jazz held to 70 points against Miami and the list will go on and on. You’re only worried because it happened to the Celtics. It hits home when it happens to your own team. But there is still no cause for such worry.

    Agreed the fans deserve better for their money spent and the Cs should have put up a better fight. Hell I still disagree with putting the vets in for so long in a losing game. The bench may have done better. Heck Shelden was on a roll. Don’t you usually put in the guy with the hot hand? But to boo them off the court? Pathetic of the fans to do that. Its like those Colts fans booing their team for not going 16-0. They’re damn lucky they still have something to cheer for. There are Nets fans, Clippers fans, Warriors fans all still going to their team’s games even though their teams lose worse than ours. Maybe the fans should appreciate what they have now because when it hits the dark ages again like a few years back where we weren’t even making the playoffs and were not even talking about anything close to a title, then the fans will realize how hard it is to put a contending team together and how many other cities would gladly take even an 8th seed playoff making team to cheer for.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    Another nationally televised Sunday game, another painful loss to a team that just plain outplayed them. This one stung even more than the cavs game.
    I’m not saying the sky is falling but I don’t view this as isolated. The Cs continually get beat straight-up by the top15 teams. The win against the Mavs was big, but other than that they they haven’t beat a top team in like forever (I don’t count the Nuggs because they were missing KMart and looked like a shadow of themselves).

    I don’t think it is an effort issue, just when the intensity picks up, they can’t raise to the occasion…they only put their tails between their legs when it gets out of reach.

    The worst thing about this game was the Spurs actually made the Cs look old. Yes they missed some open shots, but the Cs looked out-quicked at both ends for the last 3 quarters; the offense went stagnant for long stretches and they just couldn’t keep pace to recover, help and move laterally on D.

    Crossing my fingers for a 1st round victory, a matchup with the Cavs, and hope Mike Brown messes up and goes big (read: slow) against us. Then there is hope.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    Its a strange feeling….I’m more sad than mad. These vets must be taking it much harder than us….imagine what KG is thinking after getting booed off homecourt on national television. Tough.

  • http://celticshub.com Stephen

    Jrmz@ —- Let me clarify that these Laker fans that I am referring to are not your typical arrive at the Staples center late and then leave early in the 4th quarter type.These are devout NBA followers who have a healthy respect for the C’s as I do for the Lakers even though I don’t like them. Secondly–So what if Hollinger has the Spurs ranked 4th — He’s on drugs and always has been. I’m also well aware of how badly the Lakers played against the Thunder –I watched the game and the Lakers stunk it up. The difference between the C’s and the Lakers right now is that even though the Lakers play down to their competetion –especially at home–their still doing enough to win. The C’s have been folding up their tents far to many times at home this year—-Spurs, Memphis, the Nets for crying out loud. The one point I will agree with you on is the C’s are still statistically one of the best defensive teams in the league–however there is one thing that is happening now that wasn’t going on even last year–That is when their offense goes south, their defense is now going with it. Also, their rebounding–while improving a bit lately still has a long way to go.

  • legs-diamond

    I thought the C’s had opportunities to blow the Spurs out in the first quarter, as the Spurs looked rather absentee during this time. But the Celt’s did not have any killer instinct and cruise-controlled to a 23-19 lead. That lead should have been 23-13 if basic rotations were made. Thereafter, Brandon’s right, Doc for some (extraterrestrial) reason forgot to blanket Manu with Tony Allen. …. Nate R. played conservatively, and Shelden Williams probably should have played 25 minutes, for his positives outweighed his negatives. …. Rasheed: talented, yes. But he has got to turn it on, to a boil; otherwise, play young Perkins for 35 minutes. Right now, Tony Allen is getting more rebounds than Rasheed. …. All in all, last night’s game was the C’s most uninspired performance; they can’t afford to do that again this season.

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