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.