Jan 6, 2011, 1:57 AM EST
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.
Dec 6, 2013, 11:47 PM EST
Russell Westbrook wasn’t the only one showcasing his range under pressure on Friday. Paul Millsap of the Hawks heaved a shot from well beyond half court to beat the first quarter buzzer against the Cavaliers, and it found nothing but the bottom of the net. We’d like to tell you that this particular heave mattered…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:31 PM EST
Anytime a player on either team hits a shot from a distance that borders on the absurd, the announcers on the telecast seemingly can’t wait to break out the local references in describing just how far away the attempt actually was. In this case, we had Russell Westbrook hitting a shot from near halfcourt to…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:23 PM EST
Ray Allen couldn’t do it. Neither could Reggie Miller or Stephen Curry or any of the other three-point marksman you can name. Kyle Korver has now made a three in 90 consecutive games, breaking the record Dana Barros set in 1996. He did it midway through the first quarter from above the break on the…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:52 PM EST
Otto Porter, the No. 3 pick of the Washington Wizards and the guy seen as their small forward of the future, could make his NBA debut Friday night. Porter, who strained his hip flexor in September and missed all of training camp and the start of the season, is active for the Wizards Friday night…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:04 PM EST
Kobe Bryant decided to stay home from Sacramento, but he will be in the Lakers lineup Sunday night against Toronto. Steve Nash went with the Lakers up to Sacramento after a week of limited practices but nobody has any idea when we will see him. Or even if we ever will. Nash spoke with reporters…
Dec 6, 2013, 5:23 PM EST
Kobe Bryant’s jersey has faced snow, rain and wind. Yet, it’s endured. That’s the lesson I took from the above video, which Kobe posted to Facebook today. Oh, and that Kobe will return Sunday against the Raptors. I guess he’s been through a lot, too. Sunday will mark just 240 days since he tore his…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:59 PM EST
Kevin Love will not suit up Saturday night when the Timberwolves host the Miami Heat for the one time this season. Love’s grandmother has passed away and he is not with the team right now. Timberwolves assistant coach Terry Porter said Friday Love will not play Saturday, tweets the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Timberwolves…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:22 PM EST
UPDATE 5:37 pm: Kobe Bryant will make his return on Sunday night — he made the announcement in a Facebook video. Apparently he owns some FB stock. 3:22 pm: The Lakers are in Sacramento tonight. Kobe Bryant will be at his home in Newport Beach, trying to get his daughters to turn off the “Muppets…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:02 PM EST
Dana Barros, a little point guard out of Massachusetts who got to play for the Celtics as part of a 14-year NBA career, and while there he set a record: Eighty-nine consecutive games with a made three. If Kyle Korver knocks down a three Friday night when the Hawks host the Cleveland Cavaliers Korver will…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:19 PM EST
I would say the fact Houston has put Omer Asik on the trade block is the worst kept secret in the NBA, except it’s not a secret. Everybody knows it. The only questions are when he gets moved and where he lands. Talks have not progressed all that quickly because while other teams come in…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:54 PM EST
“They hate me, they hate me. I don’t know why, but it is what it is. I already know I’ve got the target on my back, but I’ll play through it; I don’t care. I really don’t. It doesn’t bother me none. If I get a call, I get a call. If I don’t, I…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:45 PM EST
The USA Today has a fantastic feature speaking to Rajon Rondo’s high school coach, Steve Smith (not the player Steve Smith, different guy). It’s well done, you can learn about Rondo as a young player. Then came this interesting tidbit when Smith was asked if he thought Rondo could bounce all the way back from…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
Apparently Glen Davis was a big child. Very big. Big Baby just returned to the lineup for the first time since last January, when he broke a bone in his foot that took two surgeries to repair properly. He’s looked pretty good since coming back — he had 33 points in the game against Philadelphia…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:39 PM EST
Dwyane Wade is going to be taking a lot of games off this season as the Heat try to rest his knees for the playoffs. It started in the second game of the season and it will continue as he has been out 5 of the Heat’s 19 games (he missed the Bulls game Thursday…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:38 AM EST
Brook Lopez’s second season in the NBA the Nets went an ugly 12-70 (with him as their best player). This wasn’t a team trying to tank for the draft — the Nets got the third pick thanks to the lottery and chose Derrick Favors, who was moved in the Deron Williams deal — this was…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:12 AM EST
When the Knicks got Andrea Bargnani the sales pitch from the pro-Bargnani side was he could do things Steve Novak couldn’t — play some defense in the post and put the ball on the floor and blow by guys. Whether those skills are really worth $23 million over two years is now a moot question,…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:50 AM EST
LeBron James doesn’t like wearing his new shoes. I mean literally his shoes — the LeBron 11 by Nike. Usually if you have a signature shoe you wear it, and in LeBron’s case when he slips on the shoe it’s a lot of free promotion considering the spotlight on him. LeBron outsells any current player…
Dec 6, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
As Holly MacKenzie and plenty of other women will tell you, proposing to your girlfriend at a sporting event is your idea of a cool proposal, not hers. But if your girlfriend is a “Luvabulls” dancer in Chicago (that’s what they are called, it’s not my name) you can get away with it if you borrow…
Dec 6, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
Over the years, Dirk Nowitzki has cemented his status as one of the most unguaradable players in NBA history. There have been better scorers, and there have been better shooters, but Nowitzki is second-to-none when it comes to getting his shot off. It would be easy to peg Nowitzki’s 7-foot frame as the sole reason…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:38 AM EST
Our nightly grades from around the NBA, or what you missed while singing Doe, a deer, a female deer… Ray, a drop of golden sun… Mike Woodson, coach New York Knicks. For a night, the Knicks looked pretty good and so Woodson can sleep without the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head. The core…
- Kobe Bryant returning Sunday against Raptors 15
- Report: Rockets stepping up efforts to move Omer Asik 10
- Rumor: Carmelo Anthony recruiting Rajon Rondo to come to New York in 2015 17
- Report: Heat shopping Joel Anthony, seeking depth behind Wade 21
- LeBron not wearing new LeBron 11s, Nike “redefining” shoe for him 15
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (64)
- Michael Beasley finding a role, groove in Miami (43)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (42)
- Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses (40)
- Kobe Bryant dunks, looks good in Lakers practice; Friday return possible (38)