SAN ANTONIO —
San Antonio Spurs 110, Boston Celtics 106
The Spurs looked inept for some stretches and unbeatable for others as they faced the full-strength Boston Celtics, and their better play prevailed in a gritty 110-106 win.
Patty Mills joined all five starters in double-figure scoring, and they pulled out a win even though they shot under 29% from deep and turned the ball over twice as much as they normally do. The question is, how? The answer is defense.
"It was our defense in the second and fourth quarters," coach Gregg Popovich said in summary. "We kinda let up a little bit coasted a little bit in the third quarter, they played very physically, we didn't respond, turned it over stopped moving. In the fourth quarter we played solid D, and we attacked the rim pretty good for ourselves and for teammates."
The numbers tell that same story. San Antonio outscored Boston 36-17 in the second quarter, closing out the half on an absurd 29-6 run during which Keldon Johnson, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Lonnie Walker IV each scored more points in a row by themselves than the entire Celtics team.
Johnson put up 18 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the year, but it was the way he did it that was the truly impressive part. He attacked the rim, and anyone in his way as if they had all personally wronged him. It was a tough matchup with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and while Keldon acknowledged the challenge, he made it clear that he wasn't afraid of it.
Boston answered with a 37-21 third quarter, led by Tatum and Brown. They combined for 49 points in the game, but Johnson, Walker and everyone else helped limit them to 19-44 from the floor.
In the fourth quarter, the Spurs buckled down. Seven-foot center Jakob Poeltl was a big part of that, anchoring the defense from 3:50 left in the third until 4:03 in the fourth. San Antonio gave up just 22 points in that quarter or so. When Pop put Poeltl back in with 1:15 left, he met Brown at the rim and forced a missed dunk seconds later.
DeMar DeRozan finished with a team-high 21 points, and saved his best for last. The Spurs had 33 seconds in a tie game, so a quick shot would guarantee they could hold for the last one. DeRozan got it up quick and pure, giving San Antonio a late lead.
With the game on the line, Dejounte Murray switched onto Kemba Walker and poked the ball away, setting up a transition dunk to all but end the game. Murray didn't score in the first half, but finished the game with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Spurs are now 10-8 with wins over the Lakers, Clippers, Celtics, and other quality teams. It's been up and down, but decidedly more up, and things are going in the right direction for this team as they continue to build chemistry and get healthy. Derrick White should be back this weekend, and his return to the rotation should only help San Antonio on the path to self-actualization.
"Just having him, back, having that spirit that he brings on the court is big," DeRozan said. "We go out there, especially against these big teams, and compete to the best of our abilities. It's fun for us, and we take on the challenge."
Devin Vassell knocked down a tough three in the corner, then played great help defense to force a miss on the other end. He caught again in the corner, but stepped on the sideline.
San Antonio's defense held even giving up second chances, and after more good defense from Boston, Gay pulled up for a jumper and hit it. Dejounte Murray hit a jumper, then turned it over in transition.
Patty Mills stopped the next Celtics possession with a steal, and after a long possession dribbled all the way to the rim where he finished with a lefty scoop. The Celtics called time down 91-86 with 7:44 left.
After another stop, Mills came down and ran pick and roll again for an open jumper, making it an 11-0 run for San Antonio.
Mills pulled up from deep off a screen and missed, but Poeltl grabbed the board and kicked to Keldon, who drove for a crafty layup between two guys.
The Jays wouldn't let go though, keeping the game close. Johnson played some solid defense on both, but the defense cut both ways and San Antonio kept coughing it up. Tatum scored 7 in a row for Boston, cutting their deficit to just 97-96 with four minutes to play.
Johnson drove through contact and didn't get a call, but he forced an air-ball from Tatum on defense. Dejounte hit a jumper to put the Spurs up 3, but Kemba Walker drilled a three to tie. Tristan Thompson got a tough bucket inside to put the Celtics up two.
Needing an answer, Keldon crossed up Jaylen Brown, took a power dribble and soared on for a huge dunk to tie it at 101.
Brown went full speed at Johnson and got past him, but Poeltl met him at the rim for a tremendous block. DeMar DeRozan took it the other way in transition and got to the line. He hit both to put the Spurs up two in the final minute.
On the next trip, brown drove and occupied the defense, dumping it off to Daniel Theis for a dunk to knot things up at 103.
San Antonio took a timeout with 33 seconds left, giving them a chance to draw up a 2-for-1. DeRozan ran pick and roll and pulled up from his spot, giving the Spurs a 105-103 lead with 28 seconds remaining.
Dejounte Murray switched onto Kemba, poked away a steal and jammed it to push the lead to 4.
Tatum pushed in transition and finished an and-1 though Poeltl. Pop called timeout with the Spurs up one and 12 seconds left. Boston applied maximum pressure, and DeRozan tiptoed the sideline and passed to Rudy Gay who was fouled.
He hit the first, then the second to make it 109-106. Marcus Smart got a good look at a corner three to tie, but missed it badly as Murray sold out to contest it.
San Antonio beat a healthy Boston team 110-106 despite shooting 29% from three and turning it over 19 times, and Coach Popovich credited the defense in the second and fourth quarters .
Marcus Smart hit a few shots out of the gate for Boston, but Keldon Johnson's relentless rack attack continued. He always looks determined to get to the rim, and he made something out of nothing for a circus shot, then drove through a body for a layup.
Johnson made a nice backdoor cut, but the defense stuck with him well. LaMarcus Aldridge put the ball on the floor and followed him though, cramming a powerful jam.
DeRozan ran pick and pop with Aldridge, and just when you thought it was going to the big man at the arc, Lonnie Walker IV snuck right to the basket for a reverse layup. On the next trip, DeMar ran the same thing and settled into a post-up, except he didn't. He lulled the defense into thinking he would, then quickly turned for a basket drive and reverse layup of his own.
Keldon missed another attempt in close, but Aldridge put it back to give him 20 points and give the Spurs their biggest lead of the game at 15. Boston quickly cut it back down to 10.
Tatum and Brown keyed a huge 18-3 run to get it within one point for the Celtics. The Spurs played a bunch of good defense, but Kemba Walker drained a deep three to make it 21-3 and put Boston in the lead. Rudy Gay got an open three at the buzzer, but missed.
After leading by 15 in the quarter, San Antonio trailed 84-82 with 12 minutes to play.
Jakob Poeltl stole an inbound pass and started a fast break, but he probably should have slowed it down a bit. The seven-footer threw a lob pass that resulted in a tragic turnover.
Patty Mills found open space for a few jumpers, and Rudy Gay picked up full-court to force a rare 8-second violation. The Spurs kept turning it over themselves, and Pop called timeout after their seventh of the game. They average a little over 10 per game this year.
Poeltl recovered for a big block, but charged on the roll on the other end. Boston built their lead out to 9.
The Spurs did a good job of playing out of a a double team, swinging it to Lonnie Walker IV for three. Aldridge blocked Tatum and impacted his follow up.
Keldon Johnson made three baskets in a row, all near the rim.
Then he snagged a miss by Mills and got it up off the glass to make it 8-straight points and cut the deficit to 3.
Johnson grabbed a board and threw a quick outlet, but not much came of it. DeRozan probed, pumped, and found a trailing Aldridge for three and the tie. LA knocked down another triple for the lead, then finished an alley-oop on a feed from Patty.
Walker knocked down a three as well, then crossed up and drove through Kemba Walker for a layup. The Spurs forced another miss, and Keldon made the loose ball go San Antonio's way. Walker caught fire, catching at the arc and driving in for a pull-up.
With about 7 seconds left in the half, Patty Mills stole the inbound and finished in transition. Then Keldon Johnson stole the NEXT inbound pass, and Lonnie finished to make it a 29-6 run to close the half. In that stretch, Keldon, LaMarcus and Lonnie each scored more points individually than the entire Celtics team. The Spurs hit their last nine shots.
LaMarcus Aldridge started the game for the Spurs with a long two that he was left open for. He missed a three, and then twice the Spurs turned the ball over trying to get it to him in the pick and pop. Marcus Smart hit a three after one, and Kemba Walker scored a layup after the other. DeMar DeRozan spun around Marcus Smart for a paint bucket.
Aldridge got another clean look but missed, and on the other end Daniel Theis drilled a three. The Celtics came out of the gate with aggressive, physical defense, and the Spurs sometimes used that against them to draw fouls.
DeRozan dribbled in the corner, stepped back and drained a three.
Boston pushed their lead to 18-10, but Dejounte Murray found Aldridge in the corner for three and the pair combined for a block on the other end.
DeRozan came down and got to the free throw line attacking Smart, and a 5-0 run made it a one-possession game.
San Antonio went to a zone defense, and Jaylen Brown fond a soft spot for a hook over Aldridge. DeRozan collapsed the defense and kicked out to Keldon Johnson, who missed everything from deep.
The same could not be said for the Celtics, who opened the game 4-5 from deep. Devin Vassell got another open one for the Spurs and missed, but Johnson put it back in.
Jakob Poeltl put one back as well, but he also picked up two pretty soft fouls, which is an area he struggles with.
Rudy Gay went to work on the block against Jayson Tatum and finished a hook over him. On the other end, Tatum answered from mid-range.
Devin Vassell played some excellent individual defense on Tatum, who hit a tough shot over him anyway.
The Spurs finished the quarter with a dunk from Poeltl, making it 30-25 Celtics after the first.
When, where: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., San Antonio
All-time series record: Spurs lead 55-40
Last season: Teams split series 1-1
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Spurs won 129-114, Jan. 8, 2020
Celtics' last game: Won vs Bulls, 119 - 103
Spurs' last game: Won versus Wizards, 121-101
Celtics' last 10 games/streak: 7-3, won 2
Spurs' last 10 games/streak: 6-4, won 1
Celtics' injury/inactive report: Romeo Langford: OUT (wrist)
Spurs' injury/inactive report: Derrick White: OUT (toe)
Spurs return to court following postponement due to COVID-19 contact tracing
About an hour before the Spurs were supposed to tip off against the Pelicans Monday, news came down that the game would be postponed due to the NBA's coronavirus health and safety protocols.
A press release from the NBA stated: "Because of ongoing contact tracing within both the Spurs and Pelicans, neither team has the league-required eight available players to proceed with the scheduled game."
Rudy Gay reflected on the weird postponement in a weird year, and said that some Spurs had actually completed their warmup already.
There was no indication this was coming for San Antonio, who only marked Derrick White on the injury report this morning. Before the game, Coach Gregg Popovich said that White wants to play tonight, but they're taking a cautious approach.
"You'll see him this weekend," he said.
This is the first postponement for the Spurs this year, and the 22nd in the league