Boston Celtics 105, San Antonio Spurs 103: The executioners’ errors

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TD GARDEN — I’ll go on the record as saying no two teams in the National Basketball Association execute better during the final two minutes of a close game than the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs. I’d rather have Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan out on that floor in a tight game than practically any duo in the league, but if I had to chose a replacement, I would pick Ray Allen and Paul Pierce without hesitation.

However, in order for me to make this argument effectively, I ask that you completely ignore the final two minutes of the Celtics 105-103 victory over the Spurs in Boston Wednesday evening.

With 2:28 left in the fourth quarter, the Boston Celtics called a timeout. Neither team had managed to score in a little under a minute, and Doc Rivers substituted Marquis Daniels for Shaquille O’Neal.  He may have been concerned that Popovich’s highly debated hack-a-Shaq tactic was set to make an appearance at any given moment, especially if the Spurs got up by a possession or two. However, I think he was mostly concerned about Shaq’s defensive limitations. (The Spurs still had a few fouls to give, making the Hack-a-Shaq unlikely to be used.)

The game was tied 96-96. Over the next minute and a half, Tim Duncan threw up a misguided, slightly off-balance mid-range jumper; Richard Jefferson was called for a charge against Glen Davis; and Manu Ginobili turned the ball over, only to fail to rotate onto Ray Allen as he curled out to the three-point line off a pick on the ensuing play. George Hill performed what appeared to be the denouement, when he had the ball stolen from him in the open court.

The team that I believe executes better than almost any other team in the NBA at the end of a close game gave up nine points in just under one minute and 30 seconds. 105-96, Celtics.

“We imploded defensively,” said Gregg Popovich after the game. I, as did many of you I imagine, believed that implosion to be, for all intents and purposes, the last memorable moment from the game.

However, this comedy of errors was far from complete. After Manu Ginobili hit a quick three-pointer, the ever-poised Paul Pierce coughed up a quick turnover, as did Nate Robinson on the following play and, after Richard Jefferson calmly sunk two free throws, the Spurs found themselves down by two with 33 seconds left. What had appeared, if not impossible, than highly unlikely, came to pass: All the Spurs needed to do was play solid defense (a tall order as of late), secure the rebound and they’d have a shot to tie or win the game.

They managed to play decent defense, forcing Paul Pierce into a neither-here-nor-there 19-footer that he missed. Somehow Nate Robinson (Nate Robinson) emerged with the rebound, quickly shuttled the ball to Ray Allen, who was fouled by Richard Jefferson and, again, the Spurs appeared to be finished for the evening. When was the last time you saw Ray Allen miss two free throws to ice a game?

At the time I didn’t remember, but I will now: With 8 seconds left, Celtics up two, against the Spurs on Jan. 5, 2011. Ginobili collected the rebound and immediately called a timeout. The Spurs were going to get their shot.

Tim Duncan stood just past the Celtics bench, scanning the court. Ginobili rolled along the near-side of the court and found some space, but for some reason Duncan looked away. He found Antonio McDyess instead, who quickly passed the ball to Manu. Manu pump faked, drawing his defender into the air. Assuming he had a clean shot — after the game, he said he wasn’t aware of the second defender — he launched the ball towards the rim, only to have it batted back by Paul Pierce and corralled by Rajon Rondo.

Fin.

Just to recap: In the game’s final stretch, Manu Ginobili turned the ball over, failed to rotate onto an open Ray Allen and had his shot attempt to win blocked. Paul Pierce turned the ball over, allowing an open layup from Tony Parker. Tim Duncan failed to find an open Manu Ginobili on the final inbounds play, and couldn’t secure a rebound over Nate Robinson. Ray Allen missed two free throws to win the game. In my humble opinion, those are some of the most clutch players in the NBA, and yet they seemed to be doing everything within their powers to ensure the other team had a decent shot at a win.

As Andrew McNeill suggested during the game, if these two teams meet in the NBA Finals, expect the last two minutes of any close games to go down very differently.

  • In the race to see which two minutes could deflate Spurs fans more, the last two minutes of the third quarter came in a close second. The Spurs would have given up 7 unanswered points to close the half had it not been for a well-executed last second jump shot by George Hill as the buzzer sounded.
  • Gregg Popovich on Ray Allen: “Ray needs to work on his shooting. He only hit 13 out of 16. If it was practice, and you did pin-downs and came off of that, I don’t know if anyone in the league would hit 13 out of 16. He does it in a game. That’s pretty good.”
  • In the context of a single game, +/-‘s utility is glaringly limited. However it’s worth noting that all five of the Celtics starters had a positive +/-, while all of their bench players had a negative +/-. Not surprisingly, the exact opposite is true of the Spurs, with the exception of Tony Parker, who had a positive +/- of three points.
  • The Celtics’ shot 61.3 percent from the field, leading me to believe the Spurs did a rather poor job on defense. However, a combination of Ray Allen’s hot hand, solid mid-range shooting by Glen Davis and Paul Pierce, and the lingering taste of Tuesday night’s defensive catastrophe have me feeling that, all things considered, the Spurs defense wasn’t that terrible.
  • That being said, the Spurs defense for the first six minutes of the game was atrocious, nothing more than a direct extension of the defensive performance they had given the night prior.
  • I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see Gary Neal on the floor for that final play. I would have been absolutely fine with a dribble drive by either Manu or Tony to Neal’s side of the floor. If Neal’s man collapsed, hit him with the quick pass. If he doesn’t, Tony or Manu have a one-on-one scenario in the paint with a full head of steam and a chance to tie. We’ve run that play a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it any easier to defend.
  • I have other notes, which I’ll unpack further tomorrow. Cheers.
  • Hobson13

    You can’t allow good teams to shoot 55% and 61% in back to back games and expect to win. PERIOD. We all knew this team would go through a difficult stretch at some point in the season and this may be one of them. In the end, these two losses underscore our need for defense above all else. We just scored 115 in NY and then scored 103 against the best defensive team in the league at their place after a tough game against NY. Our offense is great, but our defense is HIGHLY inconsistent. Spurs either need to commit to defense or quit worrying about taking the top seed in the West. It’s that simple.

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  • Brian in Seattle

    Another observation about the final play: When Manu gathered the ball from McDyess, McDyess did an excellent roll off his screen, which left two defenders on Ginobili and none on McDyess. Manu could have (and probably should have) passed the ball to McDyess for an easy slam to tie the game. I suppose the intent of the whole play was to get a 3 pointer, but by the time Ginobili dribbled along the arc it just seemed like a broken play.

    Definitely some things the team needs to work on, but, hey, two tough road losses are never a reason to hang your head.

  • Spurholic in Mumbai

    Two time outs in the first 2 min, Pop surely didn’t ant this one to run away like the Knicks game! The Spurs bench outplayed the Celtic bench enabling them to keep it close. Just like the 3/4 close victories we have satched from the jaws of defeat, this one perhaps was gifted into the jaws of defeat!!

    With Udoka being released, what does the FO have on the small forward position, do they expect JA to be ready earlier than usual?

    It will be interesting Pop’s reaction(s) for the next game.

  • Junierizzle

    This is how I see it. Both Knicks and Celtics shoot lights out, 55% and 61%. Are you kidding me 61%???? If Ray Allen shot like that in game 3 of the finals last year the C’s would be the defending champs right now. Rondo hitting clutch shots??? (22 asts is nuts though) They basically played the games of their lives and the Spurs still could have won both. On paper it looks like bad D but for the most part, thos dudes just couldnt miss.
    I think the Spurs should take it as a compliment that teams really want to beat them.

    Everyone needs to relax. It isnt like they were dominated and exposed to be not that good, and this whole season has been fools gold. Its two losses to two good teams that were ON like a motha.

    As for the last play, Manu could have hit Mcdeezy but I dont think it would have been a gimmie dunk. Besides Manu said he never saw the other defender.

    Look at the bright side. Manu had a huge fourth quarter. It was great to see. Especially since his shot hasnt been falling lately. Maybe this will get him going again. Kind of like that game in Detroit last season when he scored 11 points in like two minutes or something. I think they lossed that game too. He really got hot after that.

    Manu is badass. It took two Celtics to stop him on the last shot.

  • TD = Best EVER

    Great read except one small thing. you said Timmy missed him on that last play. Watch the replay again, Tim is looking right at him. It was the Denver play all over again. Just Boston played it a little better that Denver did.

    @ Hobson13

    “Spurs either need to commit to defense or quit worrying about taking the top seed in the West. It’s that simple.”

    +10
    You can also add just forget about number 5 as well. this team cannot win games on the road. Our role players are will shoot poorly like every other teams role players play/shoot on the road. Add to that our up/down Big 3……..psst Forget about it!

  • Regan

    @TD = Best Ever
    Its rubbish that our role players “will” shoot poorly on the road as if that will happen. There’s too much certainty in that statement. I’m very optimistic. Like previous comments on this post, two road losses to good teams that really wanted to beat us and shot well – in addition to us not playing well at all – we can, and will, learn alot from this.

    Which brings me to the pluses of these games. First, i’m glad it happened early in the season. Good for the team to realize it again and early. Defense needs alot of work. We probably played the best offense in the league in the Knicks in many ways, followed by the Celtics on a b2b. The celtics game also will let us learn more about offense and ways to improve it – e.g. execution. The Boston defense taught us ways to improve our offense – e.g. where the weaknesses are and so on.

  • TD = Best EVER

    Also let me point out that the 1st 45+min of basketball were not much better. Boston was still shooting a very high percentage going into the final stretch.

    but one of the reasons for our bad D is POP trying to jump start our Offense by going small w/ Tim as the only Big. But again it failed – Marquis Daniels got 2 easy layups against Hill(giving up about 5 inches). And the last Boston play when Paul missed. Timmy rotated over to cut of any free layup attempt and contested the jumper. But with no other Big on the floor we couldn’t secure the rebound.

    This team has 2 NBA ready Bigs (Both in the twilight of their careers), 2Projects(could take years to get these guys ready) and Bonner(ALL Offense/ No Defense Specialist.

    We need a trade

  • Regan

    If this is the NBA finals preview. These are my thoughts based from the game.

    If, and I’m certain we will improve – just not sure by how much – our defense improves – the outcome will be very different.

    2. Manu isn’t in the same form as he is when he is in supermode like the end of last season or the beg of this season. I noticed less penetration and less splitting the defenders on the pick and roll as we have seen early in the season. His shot is a little off too. I speculate that his flu and keeping his body away from too much contact may be factors. I hope that its not that he has a nagging slight injury that he’s playing through.

    On another note for Manu – i was surprised the boston announcers would comment that his defense against Ray basically sucks and that he is a weak isolation defender. Manu played great D on Kobe. Ray played lights out and i was genuinely surprised he outplayed kobe against Manu and Hill too this game.

    3. KG will be back together with Perk. By then, I hope Splitter will have developed. But from what i see from this game, other than the defense in many moments and some poor offensive execution we match up real well. Last season, RJ 1.0 played real well D on Pierce I remember.

    On a similar note, I am beginning to think that Splitter is being treated like a player meant to be at the end of the bench. It’s so weird cause he’s like a lottery pick type player and im wondering aloud here whether he is being rested/developed leading up to the rodeo trip/2nd half season.

    By the way this game really teaches us alot – not for RJ to blindly drive and create a charge, not to have poor execution turnovers etc. Furthermore, as Pop said after the game on most defensive possessions we had 1 or 2 people usually unaware of how to react. These are things we can clean up.

  • SpurredOn

    Big picture, it’s two road losses against non-conference foes, still leaving the Spurs with the best record in the league. It does not hurt their conference tiebreakers and both were games that showed where improvements can be made and the missing value of James Anderson’s size and athleticism at SF.

    I too wondered why Neal wasn’t in on the final possession. He would’ve spread the floor wider, as I don’t think Pop was playing for OT on the second night of a road back-to-back. It might’ve made more sense for Bonner to set the pick for Manu instead of having Dyce out there, but if Manu had taken and made the first look he had none of us would care.

    Lastly, the defense was far better than the Knicks game. Credit Allen for a HOF shooting night, Davis for supplying more offense than KG would have, and Rondo for being all-around solid. They hit pressure shots while guarded that never allowed the Spurs to pull away in the 2nd or 4th quarters. That’s what championship teams do in games this big. That Boston was at their near best shooting 61% on their home floor yet needed a Manu miss at the buzzer to win tells me the Spurs will be fine. I hate that our guys lost to the Celtics but understand this is part of the 82 game haul. I look forward to returning the favor and then some on the final day of March, then again in Boston come June.

  • Brian

    Did anyone else get extremely annoyed by the old completely bias Boston announcers? It was like was the most painful part of this game for me.

  • rob

    “Tim Duncan stood just past the Celtics bench, scanning the court. Ginobili rolled along the near-side of the court and found some space, but for some reason Duncan looked away.”

    When I saw that I was thinking “what tha ….”. How could you just pass up an opportunity to pass a WIDE open, best end of game clutch player and opt to pass to McDyess?

    Then Manu made just as much a bonehead nondecision to not pass to the WIDE open McDyess on the roll.

    Not that these two events caused the outcome of the game. However, it did seem to sum up the events of these past two games. Bad decisions and poor execution.

    About the best thing to watch in this game was the fight the Spurs exhibited on the second night of a B2B.

    Not looking good for Tiago if he can’t get playing time in an on the road B2B against a team where a 7 foot presense would have helped.

  • NYC

    @ Graydon

    It’s 2011 now! And the game was last night, Jan. 5, although you probably wrote the article very late, hence the Jan. 6 date given.

  • ITGuy

    So this is how a two game losing streak feels like!

    I think the team learns from these two loses and goes into a hot streak, the next 4 games are all winnable and after that they play 4 games at home starting with the mavs.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • NYC

    Due to a total fluke, I only saw the last minute of the game. I’m gonna need you guys to give me specifics about how we played the rest of the game.

    Exactly how was our defense? Some are saying it wasn’t bad, others more critical. I see that we gave up 61.3% FG shooting. That can’t be good. But then again, it seems that Celtics never led by more than 9 pts, and that came at the end of the game. So it seems it was a neck-and-neck race the whole game. Is that accurate?

    We shot 45.3% FG and 40.9% 3pts compared with Celtic’s 61.3% and 55.6% 3pts.
    Given those numbers, it seems amazing we were right there with them up until the end. They beat us in fast break pts (14 to 8), pts in the paint (34 to 28), and assists (34 to 20). We tied for turnovers, but beat them in offensive rebounding (15 to 5), and 3 pts scored (27 pts to 15 pts — had to tally that one myself). Also, we hit a ridiculous 94.1% FTs while they hit 53.3%.

    So w/out seeing virtually any of the game, it seems like the Celtics pushed and moved the ball more while we played a more methodical, half-court game. Their defense limited us to chucking up 3s (22 attempts), but we also rebounded the ball for put backs. Both team got fouled about the same, but we made an unbelievable % of our shots while they missed an equally unbelievable amount. That probably kept us in the game, right? Then two minutes of wackiness ended it.

    I can’t believe I missed the most anticipated game of the year (so far). Will someone fill me in already??

  • NYC

    Who was a bad match up for us? Who or what plays or what strengths of theirs gave us problems?

    I know Rondo played a masterpiece, which is scary since he just got back from injury. This truly is his team, and the ball runs through him. (It also seems foolish to let your star play 43 minutes having just returned from injury.)
    I also know that Ray Allen couldn’t miss and Big Baby provided a lot of offense.

    But what else? What about on the defensive end? Did their size bother us as much as anticipated? How did our big men match up? What about Blair? Why did we settle for so many 3s?

  • DorieStreet

    @ NYC

    “Their defense limited us to chucking up 3s (22 attempts),…”

    22 3pt. attempts per game is our average—that is what this team does. Over the last month’s games (Hornets on Dec. 5) we have only 4 games where the Spurs have put up less than 21 shots beyond the arc. (vs. Knicks-18, Thunder-16, Bucks-8, 76ers-17). In the other 12 games, the attempts ranged from 21 to 32. This in our MO, it’s in our DNA–this is an intregal part of the 2010-11 San Antonio Spurs. We have been miserable with the pct. made the last few games (40% though vs. Celtics last night).

  • zebulon

    Hey man-

    Celtics fan. Just wanted to say I absolutely love this blog, despite my dislike of the Spurs. Excellent, excellent recap.

    Also particularly like the “Advanced Scouting” piece before every game – I looked forward to hearing about how the attack the Celtics on D and O.

  • DorieStreet

    @NYC

    Although it does not compare to watching a replay of a game, you can got to the box score and pull up the play-by-play sequence of each quarter. You see details of what happened by who. The best part about this stat is you see the running score as the events unfold–such as the Spurs mini-meltdown last night in the 4th qtr— from being tied 96-96 @ 1:28 to down 96-105 @ 56 sec. left. Again, does not substitute for the eyeball test. Or better yet, follow the play-by-play during the game- all the sports media sources offer ‘game tracker’ (if you did not know).

  • rj

    manu also passed up dice rolling to the basket unimpeded on the final play. i really had a feeling we would drop these two games. the knicks are rolling with amare the spur killer and we weren’t going into boston anvd get a win on the second of a back-to-back. i like the losses, personally. they keep our team humble and make us realizes we have a long way to go. lets shake off the conplanecy and improve defensively.

  • KOC

    I thought George Hill had one of his worst games in a Spurs uniform. He was badly exposed by Rondo and Allen.

    Manu actually had a crap game and was pretty cumbersome until the 4th. Though we never can question his heart. He was pissed at the end.

    Parker faded pretty badly toward the end after helping us establish our lead. Made some really wtf decisions.

    Thought we did a decent job on Allen and Pearce on contesting shots, they just weren’t missing.

    Big Baby was the one I thought we were getting burned by. (Bonner was late on several rotations.) He had his jump shot going and was uncontested for many of them. It would be nice to see Blair develop into this kind of player.

    All that said, we had balanced scoring, decent assist tally, good rebounding, and solid bench play again. What killed us was going ice cold after we had established a 5 point lead at the end of the third and had our defense going good enough to win. Eight empty trips (in the fourth no less) will get you beat by a team the caliber of the Celtics, especially when they’re playing at home.

    Still, easily our best back to back game we’ve played all season. Go Spurs!

  • Rondo’s Cousin, Melvin

    I think everyone realizes that the Spurs defense has not been up to scratch this season (with the exception of a few games). But last night’s Celtics were arguably indefensible most of the night. Even during their best years, the Spurs defensive philosophy has been to run shooters off the 3 and plug the paint to prevent layups. If a team shoots lights out from 16-20 feet, they will have always beat even the Spurs teams of lore.

    Last night, the Celtics made EVERYTHING from mid-range, exactly the shots Pop wanted them to take. Granted, they also had some open shots, and the Spurs allowed a few unforgivable paint buckets, too. But with the way the Spurs were playing on offense, they win the game if the Celtics jump shooters weren’t on absolute fire last night. Coincidentally, and to a lesser degree, the Knicks shot similarly the day before.

    Not to be apologetic for the Spurs defense, because it needs improvement for sure, and in complete agreement with Graydon’s analysis of the last three minutes, but last night’s 61% shooting was not due entirely to the Spurs playing poor defense. Last night’s Celtics would have shot a high percentage against the 2005 Spurs, too. The only difference: the 2005 Spurs would have been blown out, not even giving themselves the opportunity to make last night’s execution mistakes down the stretch.

    I guess the silver lining here is that even when a team shoots an ungodly high percentage, this year’s Spurs still hang in the game. That is a first.

  • DorieStreet

    P.S. –The 4th team we attempted < 21 3pt FGA per game was Portland, not Philadelphia. FYI- our 22.1 3pt FGA ranks us 5th in the league (Magic 1st @ 24.5). The Spurs are 3rd in 3pt made per game @ 8.8 (Magic and Knicks tied for 1st @ 9.0 3pts made).

  • DorieStreet

    I see Blair only played 11 minutes; was it a matchup problem or his play that cut his time? He still managed to put up 7 shots. Did he again miss a lot of easy ones (only 1 basket made)?

  • jwalt

    First off, Manu scored 20 points and had 4 huge steals in the 4th quarter. Any criticisms about the last play should have come with a huge asterisk explaining that little tidbit of info.

    First, it was the Denver play all over, except either Boston was expecting it or Daniels was so slow on Manu’s original cut to the ball that the back screen to get him open on the weak side wasn’t there. but either way, Duncan made the right decision as far as not throwing Manu the ball.

    Second, if McDyess had picked and popped instead of rolling, Manu would have eventually thrown him the ball. If you really follow the spurs you know that McDyess does not catch the ball well in motion, that is why he now (correctly) picks and pops almost all of the time. By the time Manu saw him he and Duncan were both standing in the lane not five feet apart and neither being close to open.

    And we don’t need a trade. The last thing we need is a trade. We’re fine. My only disappointment from the last two games has been the play of Hill. After praising him to the rafters the other day he has played two stinkers in a row. But I still believe in him.

  • Rondo’s Cousin, Melvin

    From my informal count, the Celtics made roughly 73% of their mid-range jumpers last night (24 makes–season high for the Celtics). By contrast, they shot “only” 56% from three-point range (5 makes). Granted, they also had easy access to the rim early and late in the game, giving them around 11 layups (with only 4 misses!). But I still maintain that pinning the 61% shooting entirely on bad defense is over-simplifying it. If the Celtics played at their season-average jump-shooting level last night, it would not have been close.

    So, roughly, the Spurs did what they wanted to defensively last night. (Not for the whole game, but for the bulk of it.) The gamble just didn’t pay off the last two games as it normally does.

    What is anomalous, however (as Graydon points out), is the lack of execution on both ends of the floor at the very end of the game. This is something entirely new to the Spurs, including this year’s team. It is also the first time I have seen it to this degree, though, so I am not worried about clutch execution just yet.

  • doggydogworld

    The Spurs would have given up 7 unanswered points to close the half….

    Should read “10 unanswered points to close the quarter…”.

    After going up 70-67 with 3:36 left in the 3rd the Spurs spent the next five and a half minutes missing 15 of 16 shots and not getting to the FT line once. The only score was George Hill’s absurd off-balance bank shot while straddling the 3 point line at the buzzer. Manu and George had turnovers during this stretch to complete the futility. Droughts like that are killers in a close game – the Spurs spent the rest of the game scrambling and hoping for a miracle. But Boston is not Minnesota.

  • doggydogworld

    BTW, McDyess was not all that open on that last play because Timmy shoved Big Baby Davis toward the rim and into Antonio’s path. Even if Manu read the play correctly it would not have been an easy bucket.

  • DorieStreet

    Correct me if I’m wrong but this FO has never done mid-season trade sat all since Duncan came aboard Players have been signed after the deadline, or they have been released (Michael Finley last spring). Unless it for picks (I wouldn’t do that either), it looks like any additions (other than Anderson coming back) will be a 10-day or post deadline p/u.

    The Knicks-Celtics BTB was the 6th one of 18 (12 of 36 games). So far we are 8-4 with this last BTB the only one we went 0-2.

  • DorieStreet

    @ doggydogworld

    Kind of similar to Knicks game. We can all agree- bad /no defense that game by the Spurs; but if you are not stopping the opposition from making baskets, then you must make yours. And you cannot score (to keep up) if you turn the ball over without getting shots.

  • Dr. Who

    Ugh…. What a tease last night. It proves a few things; if ever you questioned the importance of defense, I think the answer is clear. You can score till the cows come home, but if you can’t get stops and execute when it counts… you ain’t going to win games. It is amazing that we were still in it after letting a team shoot over 60%. Two games is a row with horrid defense, this is a trend. The good news is that it is January and I’m much more concerned with how we play team defense in March than in January. But the time to “righten” the ship (insert joke here) is now. It is a good kick in the sack to the team. The record is nice but you can’t run and gun your way to a championship.

    Blair seemed a bit ineffective at spots around the rim not coming up with the loose balls. He had a few boards but missed out on some and didn’t provide much on the defensive end. I’m not sure if that’s why he got so little minutes. Bonner got flat out beat a few times and looked out of sorts. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this to describe Bonner, but he wasn’t a huge reason why we lost. It was only a possession here and there and whenever Ginger isn’t playing defense, it’s easy to notice (perhaps it’s the hair or T-Rex arms???). He was on the court for some healthy minutes, but you forgot he was on the court. He didn’t’ seem to add much to the game from the bench and was a bit of a defensive liablity. Hill’s deplorable play was most concerning (much more than Bonner’s). These have to be two of Hill’s worst games I’ve seen him play since the Suns play-off series last year. In the last two games, the Spurs defense looked like it did when Hill was hurt and not even playing. Perhaps there is a correlation? As Hill goes, so does the team defense??? On the whole, the first half wasn’t all that terrible defense even thought the numbers were ridiculous; but in the second half when the D needed to tighten up and we needed to execute, we missed rotations leading to easy buckets. Sure their shooters were in a rhythm but it’s a lot easier to find yourself in a rythm after shooting poorly contested jumpers rather than having active hands in your face and bodies pushing you off your spot.

    The Spurs settle for jump shot after jump shot which is a scary way to live. When the Celts would actually miss, we’d take a 3 in the 4th qtr and clank it with no rebound. I like lay ups or FT from getting fouled after taking it hard to the rim. Manu drove more than he has in the past few weeks, but still not as much as cRaZy Manu that began the season. I hate to mention his name, but after the early play in the Lakers game we haven’t seen much of Tiago. If he is not part of the gelling process during the rodeo road trip, we will have to start asking some questions about the Spurs plans for him this season. I know Bonner is important to Pop’s stretch 4 concept but it seems like we could be giving some of Bonner’s minutes to Tiago. Please note, Tiago or playing Bonner over Tiago didn’t’ lose this game. Team defense and lack of execution in the critical moments of the 4th lost the game.

    If there is one positive to be taken from this game. With 3 minutes left against the Knicks, heads were down and the team was clearly beat mentally (surprising for a Spurs team). Against the Celts even though the game seemed over, Pop left his starters in and they kept fighting. The body language was very different this game.

  • Dr. Who

    @doggyworld

    That’s what I saw. When I saw the double come to Manu I figured someone must be wide open. Didnt’ really end up that way. Wouldn’t have been a gimme. Another poster mentioned as well, McDyess is more a pick and pop shooter not one to grab the ball while moving to the basket.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ SpurredOn
    Neo would have not saved us during this game. He has only played a few games with us and of them has never guarded an elite scorer. And for the record, not that I have heard you say this, but he isn’t our 2nd best defender.

    @ rob

    “When I saw that I was thinking “what tha ….”. How could you just pass up an opportunity to pass a WIDE open, best end of game clutch player and opt to pass to McDyess?”

    He DIDN’T miss anybody – Watch the replay – he was looking right at him and Manu, even though he was wide open didn’t DEMAND the ball from him. Pierce sagged off of Dice as Manu curled basically making the lob pass Impossible.
    And for all those including the ADMIN who wrote this article – just watch the highlights in the top right corner. It was the Denver play!!

    @ NYC

    “Due to a total fluke, I only saw the last minute of the game. I’m gonna need you guys to give me specifics about how we played the rest of the game.”

    Ok here goes –
    1 – Tony Dribbles the ball WAY too much and needs to start finding people earlier in the shot clock. We had poor ball/player movement for most the game and that starts with your PG.
    2 – Blair/Bonner both got whopped on by Big Baby, adding further proof to my reasoning for wanting a trade. They were w/o KG and Perk and still won. Can u picture us w/o Tim & Dice? I can’t and won’t even allow my self to try.
    3 – Ray was H.O.T.T. hot, and yes I used 2 t’s. But if you look at the Other Celtics other than 3 they all shot 55% or better from the field. So we didn’t stop anybody. And the only reason it was close is our Offensive rebounding advantage, and remember Boston is w/o their starting 4 and 5. So that’s a fluke we won’t repeat if all where healthy.

    @ jwalt
    “And we don’t need a trade. The last thing we need is a trade. We’re fine.”

    Really? What makes you say that? We have lost 2 games in a row to short handed teams and haven’t beaten that many elite teams that were healthy. The 1st Magic game and LA are the only two that come to mind. And we have given up on consecutive nights a career high to Wilson Chandler and 22 to Big Baby (probably a season high) But our Big’s are fine – r u kidding me…..

    P.S. The Tiago situation is just getting down right depressing. We need another BIG and he is glued to the bench only to watch Bonner get 30 minutes of burn.

  • GMT

    @DorieStreet

    Our only midseason trade that I remember was for Kurt Thomas from Seattle in ’08. We traded Elson, Barry (who returned after 30 days), and a 1st round pick.

  • JustinFL

    We all knew nights like these were coming. All part of the growing pains. Personally, wouldn’t mind us flying under the radar for a little while. I see alot of positive things that will come from this.
    I know the Spurs have not done mid-season trades and I don’t expect them to, but this season they seem to be doing alot of things not done in the past.
    With that said, I noticed Robin Lopez not getting alot of PT because of Gortat and Warrick. I can’t help but wonder what Phoenix would ask for him.

  • rj

    apparently, boston played small ball down the stretch which would explain blair and bonner’s lack of minutes. seems like we started defending allen better towards the end seeing as how hill couldn’t fight through screenws. duncan didn’t look to attack jermaine much, but did a nice job getting shaq off of his feet. we will see boston again soon.

  • The Beat Counselor

    Great observations by everyone.

    I’d just like to add that TD had a nice night shooting right over Shaq who didn’t want to leave the paint.

    For some reason we could not fight through any of the screens set for Allen leading to his 13 for 15 night (yes I know he actually took 16 shots, but one was a forced at the end of a quarter). Jesus Shuttlesworth struck us down “with great vengeance and furious anger.”

    Speaking of quarter ending shots, Hill’s made 20 footer seemed a bit lucky to me since it banked in.

    Also, Rondo had more than just a “solid all around game,” he almost had a quadruple double. He had more assists by himself than our whole team! We played 10 feet off of him all night (like the Lakers did in the Finals last year), giving him no ball pressure and a ton of room to operate. He sank his wide open long jumpers. It worked for the Lakers but doesn’t it make sense to pressure Rondo so that he’s tempted to take it to the rack since he’s probably slower since he’s just coming off injury? This would also limit their ball movement.

    Early in the game, the Celtics announcer (who could have been the most annoying announcer of all time) said that TD was the only player on our team that could defend one-on-one and that Manu couldn’t defend Allen without help. I was taken aback by that statement, but with Allen consistently getting open off of curls, I began to wonder. Surely Hill is someone that the announcer didn’t give credit to.

    Also, ugly ugly play to end the game. As sort of suggested by someone, Manu should have been a decoy for Neal.

    Honestly I have no idea how this game was so close. We must be big believers in education, because we got schooled.

    If these losses lead to us getting better on D, then I’m all for it.

    Go Spurs.

  • Bentley

    I think the only player we played good defense was Pierce. RJ did a good job of getting into him and contesting his shots.

    Ray Allen had a field day on Ginobili and Hill. Ray would curl off screens and have Hill and Ginobili 3 feet behind him. You can’t give the best pure jump shooter in the league that much room to shoot or he’ll go 13 of 16 more often than not. They just couldnt figure that out. Big Baby also had numerous wide open midrange jumpers he knocked down, if thats what the Spurs gameplan was to just let him shoot, then okay, but Big Baby can make that shot all day long.

    Good fight at the end, but Celtics played good defense too. We all know that the Spurs have a long way to go, so they’ll hopefully build on these losses and move on to the next one.

    And lets hopefully not give up 61% shooting again. The Celtics were shooting hot, but a lot of that couldve been changed by better focus and execution on the defensive end.

    And for being a rookie who is getting adjusted to the NBA rules in a complicated Spurs system, I think Tiago Splitter is a pretty good defender, I just wish he could get more playing time

  • ruth bader ginobili

    Does anyone else think that Rondo is getting too much credit for last night’s win? It never really seemed to me like he was “controlling the game.”

    I always thought that his lack of shooting made his teammates take a lot mid-range jumpers (especially the big men). Last night was silly: 14 of his assists were on 16-23 ft jumpers, which is exactly the shot defenses give up, not that a point guard creates. He averages 3.4 assists from that distance. So, not too worried about this guy if we meet in the playoffs.

    And geez, how awful was George Hill last night? Hope he’s better next time ’round.

  • ruth bader ginobili

    Wow, just realized that the banked-in three pointer was Hill’s only make of the night (plus one free throw). Three turnovers too. Yikes.

  • Bentley

    And the fact that we lost only by 2, to a Celtics team with several days rest, on the road in the 2nd game of a back to back, that shot 61% from the field…i’d rather have lost like that then be completely blown out.

  • Ed

    Hill was terrible last night. Missed everything he put up but that end of half prayer-bank. The big diference in this game in my opinion was A) Rondo making jump shots….the guy can NOT shoot to save his life but was draining them last night, and B) Glenn Davis shooting lights out. Really. The guy was hitting turnarounds, long jumpers, fadeaways…you name it he hit it. Allen is always going to hit shots, it’s what he does. David and Rondo shooting and aking numerous jumpers was the surprise here. That and Manu missing Dyess to tie the game uncontested.

    Let me just say this about the NY game…..they wanted it WAY more. That was the worst excuse for defense I’ve seen by the Spurs maybe ever. No movement on defense at all just standing and watching. Bottom line is this….that was a big game for the Knicks….it was just another game for the Spurs, a game that just happened to precede a BIG game against Boston. Bad combination that resulted in, basically, the Spurs playing a regular season tempo against the Knicks playing at a playoff tempo. They gave a crap, Spurs really didn’t. Sad to say but true. I think the Spurs owe me 1/82 of my NBALP subscription for that Knicks game.

  • Ed

    *Davis* not David.

  • Junierizzle

    Again, the defense will be fine. I guess everyone forgot the four previous games when they played shutdown D. One of them was against the Thunder no less. And I guess people also forgot the two clutch stops at the end that help set up a chance to win.
    Knicks and Celtics just got hot.

  • Dr. Who

    @TD=BE

    “Blair/Bonner both got whopped on by Big Baby, adding further proof to my reasoning for wanting a trade. They were w/o KG and Perk and still won. Can u picture us w/o Tim & Dice?”

    I’m not for trades etc. but that is a very valid point that the coaches need to look at. Big Baby destroyed us while they were very short handed. I wonder how it woul dhave been with KG and Perkins.

    @GMT

    Were Nazr and Gooden after the trade deadline? I guess they were since I seem to recall them coming in pretty late at the end of the season. Gooden didn’t’ work out, but Nazr sure did in the playoffs.

    @rj

    “apparently, boston played small ball down the stretch which would explain blair and bonner’s lack of minutes”

    That’s what’s was so strange about Bonner’s game last night. He did play a lot of minutes. Blair didn’t. When they went small I still made a comment Blair is too small even playing small ball. In the 4th he was hustling but still couldn’t come up with the loose ball. Tough game for Blair. I still think he’s an asset off the bench with energy. Bonner was for the most part unnoticeable. I only realized he was on the court when he hit one of his two threes or when his defender blew right by him. Seemed like he only played 10-15 minutes, but he played a very healthy 30 minutes. Didn’t seem like he was on the court that much. I guess that’s good and bad.

    @TheBeatCounselor
    “Early in the game, the Celtics announcer (who could have been the most annoying announcer of all time)”
    We must have been watching the same feed. It was almost as bad as watching the Suns announcers. In the words of Bill Walton, “Hooooorrrrible”

    @Bentley
    If defense continues to be an issue, I think you’ll start hearing much more Tiago talk.

  • Dr. Who

    OK gang, if you couldn’t tell form the amount of posts today I’m very bored at work. Lucky you!
    But I think I have this all figured out now.

    I’m not sure if any of you visit the official Miami Heat site on the “interwebs” also known as ESPN. Marc Stein has his power ranking on there and I check it without giving it too much thought since the Spurs are usually several rungs lower than teams with worse records, however… there are rumors of some sort of curse. The curse is very similar to the EA Sports Madden cover curse or the curse you get when you don’t forward a chain e-mail to 24 people in the next 24 hours. Bad things happen… bad things….

    When a team gets put in the new No. 1 Spot, disaster is sure to follow.

    Exhibit A – The Lakers were the No. 1 team for a while and have started their crash and burn slide.
    Exhibit B – When New Orleans was finally anointed the No. 1 spot after having the best record in the NBA, they proceeded in losing more games than they had all season.
    Exhibit C – The Mavs gain the No. 1 spot and then Dirk goes down, followed by losing Butler for the season.
    Exhibit D – The Spurs were named the No. 1 team on Monday and well… we have our first 2 game losing streak. Please act now gentlemen! We all need to do our part. Sacrifice a live chicken, perform a rain dance with full feather headdress, sprinkle holy water on your George Hill jerseys or better yet we need to return Greg Brady’s Tiki idol back to the graveyard!!! This is important, everyone must do their part to help the team. I myself will be sacrificing an entire bucket full of dead chicken smothered in 11 herbs and spices at lunch time. This is called taking one for the team. A serious matter, during serious times; I trust you will know what to do. Godspeed gentlemen… Godspeed…

  • The Beat Counselor

    @ruth bader ginobili

    “Last night was silly: 14 of his assists were on 16-23 ft jumpers, which is exactly the shot defenses give up, not that a point guard creates. He averages 3.4 assists from that distance.”

    I think that generally speaking, you’re right, we want to give up long two’s. But against certain players, this strategy doesn’t work because it plays to their strengths. Examples are McDyesss, Grant Hill, Rip Hamilton, Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and since the ’09 playoffs, Big Baby. These guys make a living from that area.

    Since four of the guys mentioned are on the Celts, I’d say that’s a reason why so many of Rondo’s assists are from that range.

    @ Dr. Who

    Hilarious.

  • Dr. Leonard McCoy

    Damnit Jim! I’m an old country doctor, not a witch doctor!
    @Dr. Who. To my fellow doctor of NBA; Well, at least your patients can’t complain about your bedside manner. You seem to keep em in stitches! Hmm… by the way… does anyone know of a good witch doctor to lift this curse?

  • Titletown99030507

    @TD = Best EVER, Hell no we don’t need a trade. Enough of the Blair wish project. Give Splitter the next 25 games with 25 min. in each game instead, and your problem is solved. If they do that he’s better than any of those bigs we have with the exception of Timmy of course. Another thing is what baffles me is he’s never been on the court the same time Timmy is when he plays early in the game which is hardly. I keep hearing all the bigs are subed between the Center and PF spots. They need to stop screwing around with their experiment and get back to what really wins games against better teams with shooters and slashers. Although they can improve on their perimeter defense its the damn slashers that are going to keep carving us apart if they don’t get a real capable big enough to stick his tall big body to cover up the sight of these shooters and locking down the paint so these slashers don’t feast on us. Splitter is damn capable if you give him his share of time on the court. I’m sick and tired of this nonsense their doing. Been saying this for 25 games now and now people are beginning to complain? Where you people been? Could have taken care of this long ago had Pop not decided to put a 6’7″ Center /PF or whatever you want to call him on the starting line up. How sexy is that right about now huh? I don’t see any of those people on this post that were complaining about me bitchin about the Splitter issue back then. Where are those band wagoners now? All I’m saying its damn time they concentrate on getting Splitter lots of burn for their money. They’ll be better for it by the time they meet up with these teams when it really matters. The truth is in the pudding. And the pudding is starting to taste rather bitter right about now. And if you really want a trade don’t trade Splitter trade one of the other bigs because Splitter by the end of the regular season will be way better than any of those 3 bigs. Nuff said.

  • jwalt

    td best ever — I’m glad you’re not one to remain calm in a situation that calls for panic.

    In 2007 everyone was screaming for a trade, Pop said no and they went on to win the championship. We are 29-6 for crying out loud. Could we be better? Of course. But we are fine.

    Trades look good on paper but they are fraught with risk. we have 5 capable bigs, with only Duncan being crucial. Pop will work it out.