Ouch. After a first half in which the San Antonio Spurs played outstanding basketball to build a lead that swelled to as high as 32 points, the Boston Celtics roared back after halftime to confiscate a 143-140 victory. After their phenomenal start, the Spurs let up and never rediscovered their first half magic.
It goes without saying that this was a disappointing loss for San Antonio. The good guys had another impressive road win within their grasps but they allowed it to slip through their fingers. The free-flowing offense and hustling defense in the first two quarters were replaced by a stagnant offense and a passive defense in the second half.
With about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Spurs still led by 23 points, 98-75. But before the quarter was up, the Celtics went on a 15-3 run to get within 11 points and set the table for their comeback victory.
Jayson Tatum was simply spectacular tonight. He showed why he’s regarded as one of the best young superstars in the NBA. For the game, he finished with 60 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He hit 20-of-37 from the floor, 5-of-7 from three-point range and 15-of-17 from the free throw line. Tatum’s 60 points tied some cat named Larry Bird for most points in a game in Celtics history.
Spurs at Celtics: Final Grades
In the first half, Murray was flawless. Going into halftime, he had 20 points on 9-for-9 shooting. He was running the offense to perfection and he was super active on D. Tragically, his superpowers disappeared at intermission. The rest of the way, he played like he didn’t have a clue of what to do. The team-wide collapse started with Murray’s discombobulated play on offense and his lack of focus on defense.
The good: Poeltl was reliably in the right positions on defense. On offense, he was much more aggressive than usual — and his aggression paid dividends. The bad: A lot of the good Poeltl did on defense was negated because he wasn’t strong enough on the boards. He had a total of two defensive rebounds after half time.
The good: DeRozan went to the line 19 times. His passing and playmaking were really good. His teammates were desperate for him to take the reins when the walls started to close in on them — and DeRozan was ready to shoulder that responsibility. The bad: He hit only 7-of-21 shots from the field. His laissez-faire attitude in the third quarter played a role in initiating the collapse. DeRozan’s D was bad — even when the effort was there.
The good: Johnson wasn’t too involved on the offensive end but he took advantage of his touches for the most part. His rebounding and hustling remained high — even when his teammates started to become passive. The bad: Johnson’s individual defense was neither good nor effective. His team-defense wasn’t much better. During the collapse, Johnson had a handful of moments where he tried to do too much on O.
Vassell got his second straight start after Derrick White’s ankle injury … and this was definitely a game the rookie needs to forget ever took place. On defense, he was roasted early and often by Tatum. Eventually, he resorted to hacking. On offense, he missed all his shots and was obviously rattled.
Lonnie Walker IV
The good: Walker was stout on the offensive end. After halftime, while his teammates were busy falling apart, Walker did what he could to steady the ship. He scored 18 points after intermission while hitting 7-of-8 shots. He also mixed in a couple heady passes. The bad: Walker was not competitive enough on defense. He also struggled whenever the Spurs tried to throw zone looks at the Celtics.
One would imagine a veteran like Mills could be counted on to help his teammates avoid an epic collapse. That … wasn’t the case. He hit one shot in the second half: a three-pointer with five second remaining in overtime. Mills was playing well in the first half but gave the team little to nothing after halftime.
Gay is another player who peaked in the first half. To be fair, he tried to steady the ship in the second half but he didn’t quite do enough. Defensively, Gay was never too impressive in this game. He also tossed one of the worst inbounds passes you’ll ever see during a key moment of the game.
Eubanks didn’t get much run. When he was on the court, he was okay. He played with confidence on offense and made life easier for his teammates. Defensively, he picked up a couple of cheap fouls but his boxing out was helpful when he was on the court.
Pop had to love what he saw in the first half. Everything was humming and the Spurs looked like a dangerous and cohesive basketball team. Unfortunately, the collapse happened. I don’t think Pop did anything overtly terrible during the collapse but he certainly wasn’t pushing many buttons to help keep his troops for tumbling into the abyss. Eventually, the offense reverted to give-it-to-DeMar-and-pray mode, which wasn’t a sign of great coaching.
The Spurs travel to San Antonio to play one home game before starting another four-game road trip. That home game is against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.