In a wild back and forth affair, the San Antonio Spurs escaped with a 110-106 victory over the Boston Celtics. This was undoubtedly one of the most impressive wins of the season for the good guys. They fought through multiple lulls and then made enough big plays at the end to get the win.
The Spurs led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter but then the Celtics came roaring back. With 11 minutes remaining, Boston had a four-point lead, 86-82. The Spurs were able to reverse the momentum with an immediate 11-0 run that was kickstarted by a three-pointer by Devin Vassell. That Celtics eventually recovered but the Spurs needed that run to regain their footing and prepare for the topsy-turvy final minutes.
San Antonio had a season-high 20 total turnovers but they were able to survive by shooting a blistering 70.4% (38-for-54) from two-point range.
Spurs vs. Celtics: Final Grades
It was a roller coaster of a game for Murray — but the final destination was a sunny one. He led the Spurs with 11 rebounds but he was much sloppier with the ball than he has been as of late. He wasn’t making timely passes but his defense was strong throughout. Going into the fourth, Murray was just 1-for-6 from the field. But in the final period, he was 4-for-5 from the floor and was making big play after big play — none bigger than his pickpocket-to-breakaway-dunk with less than 20 seconds remaining to give the Spurs a four-point lead. All in all, while Murray has had smoother outings, he competed hard and was best when the Spurs needed him most.
On one hand, DeRozan seemed too passive for most of the game and was one of the many Spurs infected with the turnover bug. On the other hand, it’s impossible to be anything but thrilled with his efficiency. He scored 21 points on only eight shot attempts, hit both of his three-pointers and his midrange jumper with 28 seconds remaining was arguably the biggest play of the entire game. Defensively, he wasn’t great but he held his ground well and wasn’t getting pushed around.
The good: Johnson was really effective driving to the hoop tonight. There were a couple drives where he unsuccessfully tried to make something out of nothing but for the most part that aspect of his game was much-needed and vital to San Antonio’s cause. His toughness in the paint and his tenacity on the boards were invaluable. The bad: He badly airballed his lone three-point attempt. (His airballing of threes as of late is worrisome.) Johnson’s perimeter defense was less than swift and we’ve seen him make better passing decisions.
Lonnie Walker IV
Walker might have been the best player on the court in the second quarter. In the nine minutes he played in that period, he was 2-for-2 from three-point land and 3-for-3 from two-point territory. His defense that quarter was also really good. With Walker in god-mode, the Spurs were able to outscore the Celtics 36-17 in the second. Sadly, he didn’t do much at any other point in the game. Offensively, he was silent and he got overwhelmed a lot on the other end.
Aldridge got his jumper going early and that really aided the Spurs offensive attack. He ended up 3-for-6 from three-point land and he was launching without hesitation for most of the night. The other parts of his game were more suspect, though. He was decent defending the paint but his perimeter defense was nonexistent and he did very little to help on the boards. That said, at this point of his career, if Aldridge is a three-point threat who is actively looking for his shot, that’s a valuable cog in the wheel.
Mills was 0-for-4 on three-pointers and was one of five Spurs who had three turnovers. His ball-handling and playmaking were substandard, to put it kindly. Thankfully, Mills was able to salvage a lot of his value by hitting 6-of-7 two-pointers and by playing feisty defense. The Celtics targeted him but didn’t have much success.
Mostly good stuff from Poeltl. He was a savage rebounding-wise, crafty passing-wise and he was challenging shots left and right. His perimeter defense and rotating were excellent. While he finished the game with five fouls and three turnovers, a lot of that was due to setting mean picks and trying to cover up gaps in the defense.
Man, Gay really wasn’t moving well in this game. Any move that required him to make a quick step thisaway or thataway was just asking too much. His jumpers all looked short coming out of his hands. He made matters worse by shooting the ball whenever he had a speck of daylight as if he had the hot hand. The two silver linings: Gay hit key free throws down the stretch and was one of only two players (Aldridge being the other) who didn’t have a turnover.
Vassell had some outstanding help-defense possessions. His one made basket was an important three-pointer in the fourth. Unfortunately, after having zero turnover total in his last 11 games, he had three tonight. He was also just 1-for-5 from the field.
Good coaching from Pop tonight. Aldridge was hot offensively but Pop wasn’t fooled into playing him too many minutes. Not overdoing DeRozan’s minutes was also key. Leaning on Murray and playing Johnson and Walker 31 minutes each was good. Mills was surviving enough defensively to warrant his fourth quarter minutes. The Spurs made big plays when they were needed and Pop probably deserves a smidgen of that credit.
Things don’t get any easier for the Spurs with the Denver Nuggets coming to town for a game on Friday night. That will be another challenge that will once again require a strong team effort to get a W.