Ford Keys to the Game: Spurs 103, Celtics 105

Ford Keys to the Game

Spurs 103, Celtics 105

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo chases down George Hill on a fast break and blocks his shot from behind.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

Talk about a sigh of relief. This one got crazy.

The Boston Celtics led tonight’s game against the Western Conference-leading Spurs by nine points with 56.8 seconds remaining. It seemed as if this one was easily in the bag, but from that point on the Basketball Gods pressed every button they could to force the C’s into their third loss of the season at home. Sorry, Spurs, those Gods were one button too short.

Manu Ginobili ignited San Antonio’s crazy comeback with a 3-pointer with 50.5 seconds remaining. That shot cut the lead to six and gave the C’s possession with a full court to work with. Paul Pierce took an inbound pass in front of Boston’s bench and, assuming he was going to be fouled, stood pat as a couple of Spurs mugged him. But the whistle wasn’t blown and Tony Parker came out of the group with a steal that led to a quick layup, cutting the lead to four with 42.1 seconds remaining.

At this point, you had to wonder what was going on, but the craziness just kept on coming.

Doc Rivers called a timeout and substituted Nate Robinson in for Marquis Daniels. The intention was to get as many solid free throw shooters on the court as possible, because the Spurs would be forced to foul at some point. Robinson shoots the ball at a 76.6 percent clip from the free-throw line, so it was a great maneuver by Rivers.

The C’s took the ball out at midcourt and Robinson streaked into the backcourt to free himself from the defense. He caught the inbound pass and began to dribble back toward the right side of midcourt before realizing numerous Spurs players were waiting to trap him. So he changed course and began moving to the left side of the court. When he was, in fact, trapped, he swung a pass around the defenders that was intended for Rajon Rondo. The attempted pass was stolen by Ginobili and passed ahead to Richard Jefferson, who was fouled and then hit two free throws.

The lead was now down to two with 33.0 seconds remaining. Things had gotten crazy, then crazier. Well, they’re about to get crazierer.

All the C’s needed was one more bucket and the game was likely theirs. Pierce attempted to provide that with a fade-away jumper along the right baseline, but his shot missed off of the front of the rim. The angle at which the ball grazed the rim, however, forced it to bounce out toward the free-throw line and, after it was tipped, Robinson corralled it in. Now the Spurs were forced to foul, and they just so happened to foul Ray Allen, one of the best free throw shooters of all time.

Allen stepped to the line with 8.1 seconds remaining with two free throw attempts that could seal the game. He probably only had to make one, which would have made it a three-point game, because the C’s would have fouled from that point on and forced San Antonio to out-shoot them from the free-throw line. His first attempt was just barely short and quickly rolled from the front of the rim to the back, and then fell to the floor outside of the hoop.

Surely he’d make his second attempt, right? Wrong.

The second attempt was a no-doubt miss, as it clanked off of the back of the rim and into Ginobili’s hands. San Antonio then called a timeout with 7.4 seconds remaining and trailing by two.

Out of the timeout, the Spurs got the ball into the hands of their big-shot maker, Ginobili, and he ran a pick-and-roll with Antonio McDyess at the top of the key. Instead of switching, Marquis Daniels and Pierce, who defending that pick-and-roll, both followed Ginobili as he made his way to the right wing. That double-team, which Rivers said was not supposed to take place, threw Ginobili off and he wound up attempting a 3-pointer with just under two seconds remaining. Instead of sending the game to overtime, that shot was blocked by Pierce and time expired shortly thereafter.

Oh, and we can’t forget, that loose ball that took place after Pierce blocked Ginobili’s possible game-tying shot attempt? It fell into Rondo’s hands in the paint, giving him his 10th rebound of the game. That board secured his second triple-double of the season, and likely the first in history to be recorded in such a manner as time expired.

Like we told you - crazy.

Key Box Score Line

You have to love when there are numerous Celtics to choose from to fill this section up. Boston got fantastic games from four different starters tonight, but none could compare to the ridiculous numbers Rajon Rondo racked up in just his third game back from a left ankle sprain.

Double-doubles are nice. Triple-doubles are nicer. Quadruple-doubles? When was the last time you even had to fathom such a thing? Rondo didn’t quite get to that level, but he sure did make us think about it.

Rondo’s triple-double was highlighted by 12 points, 10 rebounds and 22 assists, but that stat line might not even due justice to the show he put on tonight.

Despite the fact that he didn’t attack the basket on a regular basis, he tossed spot-on passes to a red-hot Ray Allen all night long to continuously add dimes to the bank. Allen, who scored a game-high 31 points, was joined by Paul Pierce and Glen Davis as large recipients of Rondo’s huge assist night.

When the speedy point guard wasn’t dissecting San Antonio’s defense with precision, he chose to take the shots the Spurs gave him. He mixed and matched jumpers with buckets in the paint, and that all led to his 12 points on the night.

Rebounding was especially critical tonight because Boston’s big men were nearly nonexistent on the glass. With Shaquille O’Neal, Davis and Jermaine O’Neal combining for only eight rebounds, someone had to step up. Rondo accepted that challenge. He attacked the glass and tracked down loose balls that no one else could get to and his 10th and final rebound came off of Pierce’s block to end the game.

So that covers the triple-double. What else is there to highlight? How about a game-high six steals? San Antonio came into tonight’s game as the fourth-best fast-break team in the NBA, but Rondo’s steals helped the C’s trump the Spurs in that category tonight. His six rips played a large role in Boston racking up 14 fast-break points on 5-of-7 shooting. The Spurs scored only eight points in the open court.

It’s amazing when a player can dominate a game on every level the way Rondo did tonight. To do it in just his third game back after missing seven in a row? Unfathomable… kind of like that quadruple-double he reminded us is in the realm of possibility.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Rajon Rondo nearly recorded a quadruple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 22 assists and six steals.
  • Boston shot 61.1 percent from the floor.
  • Four Spurs scored at least 14 points, led by Manu Ginobili's 24.
  • San Antonio, which came into the league ranked fourth in fast-break points, was limited to eight points on the break.
  • Boston scored 28 points in both the third and fourth quarter.
  • The Celtics assisted on 34 baskets, while the Spurs assisted on only 20.
  • Rondo's 22 assists were more than the entire Spurs team.
  • Fifteen of San Antonio's 37 rebounds were at the offensive end.
  • Ray Allen scored a game-high 31 points on 13-of-16 shooting. He also dished out six assists, more than any San Antonio player.
  • Allen missed two free throws in a row with 8.1 seconds left in the game.
  • Neither team scored more than 34 points in the paint.
  • Rondo's 10 rebounds, 22 assists and six steals were all game highs.
  • The teams combined to score 52 points off of turnovers (31 by San Antonio, 21 by Boston).
  • Jermaine O'Neal fouled out of the game in 22:38 of playing time. He had four points and five rebounds.
  • The Spurs made 16 of their 17 free throw attempts.
  • Gregg Popovich and Paul Pierce were both whistled for technical fouls.
  • Glen Davis scored 23 points for the C's.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers' reason for going with a small lineup in the second half isn't quite what you'd expect to hear, is it?: "Because (Matt) Bonner was killing us."