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. PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Wizard’s defense peaking at right time

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four

    Washington’s averaged defender distance to the Toronto shooter was 3.55 feet, the closest defense any team played in the first round of the playoffs.

  2. Report: Chandler Parsons to have knee surgery, could require microfracture surgery

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:58 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets- Game One Getty Images

    The doctor will decide if microfracture is needed while doing a scope.

  3. Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith gets two-game suspension for shot to Jae Crowder’s head

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. Boston Celtics At TD Garden Getty Images

    The Cavs will be without two starters for the first two games of next round.

  4. PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Draymond Green helped hold Anthony Davis in relative check

    Apr 27, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four Getty Images

    Davis was +35 when playing while Green sat, -55 while Green was on the court at the same time.

  5. Cavaliers’ Kevin Love out for entire conference semifinals (likely vs. Bulls)

    Apr 27, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Four Getty Images

    He would have been key against the Bulls to help space the floor.

  6. Quote of the Day: Kelly Olynyk on Cavaliers fans

    Apr 27, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzjymvhyzgwzgy5njixztvmzwrlzgzmymqxyza3ytg52 AP

    Olynyk finds common ground with Clevelanders

  7. PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: LeBron got his shots despite good Celtics defense

    Apr 27, 2015, 4:59 PM EDT

    LeBron James, Gerald Wallace LeBron James, Gerald Wallace

    Stats show Boston defended LeBron well, he just hit the shots anyway.

  8. PBT Extra: For how long should J.R. Smith be suspended?

    Apr 27, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. Boston Celtics At TD Garden Getty Images

    I say Smith should get at least three games.

  9. Grizzlies’ Mike Conley has surgery to repair face, likely 48 hours before timetable

    Apr 27, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT

    Mike Conley Mike Conley

    They need the swelling to go down to get a sense of his return,

  10. Report: Kevin Love seeks more medical opinions, may delay announcing timetable

    Apr 27, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzjymvhyzgwzgy5njixztvmzwrlzgzmymqxyza3ytg52 AP

    Cavaliers gave him a chance to wait by sweeping Celtics

  11. Two years removed from being a top recruit, Florida’s Chris Walker declares for NBA draft

    Apr 27, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT

    Tennessee v Florida Getty Images

    What does Walker’s cratered draft stock say about Billy Donovan?

  12. Report: Cavaliers stated plan to avenge Kevin Love’s injury

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    If that was their plan, they executed it well

  13. Report: If Kevin Love leaves Cavaliers, Lakers are team to beat in free agency

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:24 AM EDT

    Kevin Love, Tarik Black AP

    Celtics were reportedly gaining ground before Kelly Olynyk

  14. Paul Pierce trolls Drake, Raptors after sweep

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:46 AM EDT

    Wizards v Raptors Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 2 Getty Images

    Wizards forward started talking before series, hasn’t stopped

Featured video

Boston defended LeBron well, it didn't matter
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (5118)
  2. C. Parsons (4670)
  3. K. Durant (4066)
  4. N. Mirotic (3955)
  5. D. Lee (3944)
  1. K. Bryant (3837)
  2. P. George (3678)
  3. T. Parker (3635)
  4. P. Beverley (3492)
  5. M. Conley (3485)