With the Celtics down by three with under ten seconds to go, Marcus Smart ended up with a wide open corner three to send the game to overtime, but was unable to capitalize. Rudy Gay got sent to the line and hit the game-sealing free throw, giving the Spurs a 110-106 win over the Celtics.
The Celtics labored through an up-and-down performance, but still found themselves with a good chance to come away with a victory. In what could be considered the Celtics first game at full health this season, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way, scoring 25 and 24 points respectively.
This game was full of big runs for both teams. The Celtics started off the game well, as they led 30-25 at the end of the first quarter. Tatum and Brown led the way with 7 points apiece. The problem was an abysmal second quarter, which ended with the Spurs going on a 29-6 in the last six minutes of the quarter, giving them a 61-47 lead at halftime. Brown and Tatum both failed to register a single point in the frame, as the Celtics struggled to get much of anything to go in, while the Spurs caught fire. Two terrible turnovers from Tatum within the last ten seconds of the quarter pretty much summed up an awful turn of events for the C’s.
The Spurs came out hot to start the third quarter, but coach Brad Stevens decided to switch the defense into a zone, opting for a 2-1-2 defensive look. This cooled off the Spurs, as they became much less aggressive driving to the hoop, and tended to settle for three-pointers instead. The Celtics improved defense allowed them to make a charge back into the game, as they went on a 22-5 run of their own at the end of the quarter to head into the fourth quarter with a 2 point lead over the Spurs. Brown and Tatum led the charge, as they combined for 22 of the team’s 37 points in the frame.
The fourth quarter featured more of the same, as the Spurs went on an 11-0 run early on to give themselves a seven point lead, only for the Celtics to bring the game back to a tie at 99 points. They each traded buckets the rest of the way, with the Celtics having the shot to tie the game at the end, but they came up empty. It’s a tough loss after having battled back into the game off of one of their worst quarters of the season.
The main positive takeaway from this game is that the Celtics are healthy. Kemba Walker played his first game with both Tatum and Brown this season, and it will take some time for them to return to their full potential. All of them really struggled with their efficiency tonight, but that won’t be the case every night with players of their caliber. All of them carried the offensive load at different points throughout the game, but they’ve got to work at getting others involved. The team really struggled when they didn’t have Brown or Tatum on the floor, which allowed the Spurs to go on numerous runs throughout the night. The bench struggled to get involved much, and they will need some added production when the starters struggle at times like they did tonight.
The Celtics did struggle with their defense again tonight. The Spurs shot 56% from the field, and got pretty much anything they wanted in the paint. After having put up two great performances in their previous games, the Celtics reverted back to their old ways, and put up a stinker. The zone defense helped slow down the Spurs, but they eventually found their footing and didn’t let the game slip away from them. The Celtics are a better team when they play tough defense, but their defensive efforts let them down tonight.
Things won’t get any easier for the Celtics, as they head into a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. The Lakers are the reigning champs, and the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be sure to give the Celtics fits. The Celtics have matched up well with the Lakers in previous matchups, but they will need to step it up if they want to come away with a win in this one. The trio of Walker, Brown, and Tatum is going to need to have much better games if they have a chance to pull off an upset.
Click on the images below to shop for new Celtics gear!