Skip to content

Celtics, Spurs prove the antidote to the L.A./Miami show

Jan 6, 2011, 1:57 AM EDT

Manu Ginobili, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo

This was a basketball’s fan’s matchup.

It wasn’t about the hype or the reality shows, it was about the game. With all the focus on Los Angeles and Miami, too many have missed that Boston and San Antonio have played the best basketball and have the best records in the league.

It is far too early to talk about this as any kind of preview, but watching the Spurs and Celtics go at it in January showed us all this would make a fantastic NBA finals. You know it’s not what David Stern is pulling for. You know it’s not what most of America wants to see in June. You know the suits at ESPN/ABC want Kobe and Phil and LeBron and Dwyane. They want the glitz and soap opera to help sell the telecast.

That’s not Celtics vs. Spurs — this was pure and about the game. It was a basketball fan’s matchup. This was for the die hards. If those seven games in June were half as fun as this this 105-103 Celtics win on a cold Wednesday in January, the rest of the country would catch on. This was entertaining.

Not that a finals between these two would look like what we saw Wednesday night, for example the Spurs would not be on the second night of a back-to-back. And you can bet the execution in the last two minutes will be a lot better by both teams (this got sloppy). Plus, you can bet both teams will be a lot tighter defensively by then. (They will be or they won’t be there.) If the Spurs don’t start playing better defense soon I fear for Gregg Popovich’s health. He benched DeJuan Blair early, called two quick time outs and his blood pressure was clearly way up.

That was in part because Popovich’s Spurs had no defensive answer for Rajon Rondo, who had 22 assists to go with his 12 points, 10 rebounds (the last scooping up Paul Pierce’s block of a Manu Ginobili shot at the buzzer) and six steals.

A lot of Rondo’s assists went to Ray Allen, who destroyed the Spurs with 31 on the night. Boston ran Allen of screens early and Ginobili could not keep up, giving Allen time for good look catch-and-shoots. Allen had a very quick six points, and that got him going. The Spurs went to George Hill on Allen and he was better but that didn’t work, Allen had his momentum and nobody was stopping the roll he was on. After the game, Popovich fell back on sarcasm to talk about Allen, as reported at Celtics Hub.

“Ray needs to work on his shooting a little bit. He only hit 13 out of 16.”

Both Rondo and Allen played key roles in the run that won Boston the game. From the 2:28 mark of the fourth quarter — when the game was tied 96-96 — until :56 seconds remained Boston played about as well as they could (without Kevin Garnett). And the Spurs made uncharacteristic mistakes.

That run by Boston started with Rondo probing, stopping 18 feet out, finding Glen Davis open along the baseline and hitting him with a snap pass from out top. Davis felt the help coming and slid the ball off to a cutting Marquis Daniels for the lay in.

Then on the other end Rondo baited Ginobili into a bad pass to Tony Parker that Rondo stole. Boson slowed it down (after a time out) and then once again Ginobili was slow coming off a Pierce screen and Allen got another good look at a three. You can guess how that went.

Then after a defensive stop got the Celtics the ball back, they came down, Rondo came off a Pierce high screen and drove uncontested until he was 8 feet from the rim, at which point he hit a pretty little floater in the lane. Then seconds later Allen stripped Hill and took it for a breakaway layup.

It was a 9-0 Boston run to put them up 105-96 — and they would need every bit of that to hang on and win, because it was time for the Spurs to execute and Boston to stop.

First Ginobili hit a catch-and-shoot three. Then Tony Parker stole the ball from Pierce (there might have been a foul there) for a layup. Then Manu stole a pass intended for Rondo (there was a foul there) and Richard Jefferson got fouled trying to convert that to a layup. Hill hit the free throws, and it was 105-103. Then came maybe the strangest part of the game — after a Pierce miss and Nate Robinson offensive rebound, the Spurs had to foul and so they fouled Allen. Who promptly missed two clutch free throws. I can’t remember the last time he did that.

The Spurs got one last chance but that’s when Pierce blocked the Ginobili shot at a three to win it, Rondo grabbed the rebound and that was the ballgame.

But what a ballgame.

Who knows what the NBA finals will look like? There’s more than half a season to go and both these teams need to stay healthy. Plus, those teams that Stern and the ABC suits like are good. It’s too early to say what will happen in the Eastern and Western conference finals.

But if the two teams that have played the best basketball in the NBA so far — Boston and San Antonio — were to meet again in June real fans of the game would be happy. Because that would be a fan’s matchup.

Latest Posts
  1. NBA Playoff Preview: Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:55 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors Getty Images

    This should be the East’s most competitive first round matchup.

  2. NBA Playoff Preview: Charlotte Bobcats vs. Miami Heat

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT

    How quickly can Miami flip the switch?

  3. NBA Playoff Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Can the Pacers regain their early-season swagger now that the playoffs are here?

  4. PBT Extra: Clippers/Warriors playoff preview

    Apr 18, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Expect a fight by the end of Game 2.

  5. PBT Extra: Nets/Raptors playoff preview

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT

    Kyle Lowry, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams Kyle Lowry, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams

    People shouldn’t sleep on the Raptors, particularly the Nets.

  6. NBA Playoff Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    Tony Parker, Samuel Dalembert Tony Parker, Samuel Dalembert

    Dallas has lost nine straight to San Antonio. Don’t expect that streak to stop now.

  7. Ties broken, NBA Draft lottery odds, second half of draft now set

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

    Grant Gilbert AP

    All the draft lottery odds are here, so Lakers fans can look and see what that little run of wins to close out the season did to their odds.

  8. PBT Podcast: NBA playoff preview edition

    Apr 18, 2014, 3:27 PM EDT

    Larry O'Brien trophy Getty Images

    We look at all 8 first round series.

  9. 2014 PBT Awards: All-NBA team

    Apr 18, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    First-team frontcourt a constant, but guard spots debated

  10. Report: Steve Kerr “expects” to be offered, will take Knicks coaching job

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    Virginia v Maryland Virginia v Maryland

    While nothing is set in stone (Mike Woodson has yet to be officially fired) you know back channel conversations have already taken place. It sounds like Kerr wants in.

  11. Jordan Brand unveils the Air Jordan XX9

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Jordan_XX9_695515-005_AJXX9_3Q_original

    Behold: The Air Jordan XX9.

  12. 2014 PBT Awards: Most Valuable Player

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

    Lebron James, Kevin Durant Lebron James, Kevin Durant

    Kevin Durant and LeBron James finish 1-2 on every ballot

  13. Why shot-location defense matters

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat

    Playing effective NBA defense is more about dictating shot location than contesting shots.

  14. One more amazing thing LeBron James has done

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat

    Taking a lot of 3s and making a lot of 2s is not easy

  15. NBA Playoff Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

    Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, David Lee, Chris Paul Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, David Lee, Chris Paul

    With Andrew Bogut the Warriors outplayed the Clippers this season, but Golden State will be without him and that is trouble.

  16. Report: NBA’s increased age limit proposal includes higher-paying D-League

    Apr 18, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

    Adam Silver Adam Silver

    The league will try to offer a larger, better paying D-League

Featured video

Warriors vs. Clippers playoff preview
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Wade (4122)
  2. L. James (3980)
  3. D. Williams (3948)
  4. K. Love (3843)
  5. S. Curry (3728)
  1. C. Anthony (3661)
  2. R. Rondo (3343)
  3. R. Westbrook (3246)
  4. G. Dragic (3126)
  5. K. Durant (3121)