Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 107, Spurs 97
Celtics 107, Spurs 97
The Celtics were closers tonight, that’s for sure. They shot 7-of-10 from the field in the final 5:15 of the game, all while hitting four free throws as well, to put their 107-97 victory over the Spurs in San Antonio on ice.
That near-perfect close to the game was undeniably important, because it helped hold onto Boston’s double-digit cushion. But when was that cushion built? Let’s take you for the ride.
Boston used a huge run in the third quarter to build its largest lead of the game to that point and put all of the pressure on San Antonio to make a comeback. The prolonged spurt took only 3:52 to complete, and it accounted for 14 unanswered points. When the run began, Boston had been trailing by four. When it was completed, the C’s owned the game’s first double-digit lead.
Rajon Rondo was the key to the run, and he played a role in getting it started when he threw a perfect lob pass ahead to Jeff Green after Richard Jefferson missed a 3-pointer for the Spurs. Green took the pass in stride and finished an easy fast break layup that was through the net just seven seconds after Jefferson’s miss.
Rondo began Boston’s run with a dish, but it was his shooting that lit the real fire. San Antonio learned early on in this game that it couldn’t stay in front of the speedy point guard, so it decided to sag off of him. Rondo answered that tactic with three consecutive buckets, two of which were no-doubt jumpers, to up the Celtics’ run to 8-0 and their lead to 71-67.
Jefferson might as well have been given a couple of assists, because he was the man who triggered yet another fast break play for the C’s shortly after Rondo’s three straight baskets. Jefferson drove to the basket from the right wing and rose up for a slam dunk, but with Jermaine O’Neal contesting the shot, he clanked it off of the back of the rim and Rondo grabbed the deep rebound. Rondo immediately dropped the ball off to Pierce, who put home a fast break layup to up Boston’s lead to six. The entire play, from rebound to basket, took just three seconds to complete.
After nearly another minute of play, in which the Spurs missed two shots, Delonte West hit Green for an easy four-foot jumper in the lane. That duo connected again on Boston’s next possession, as Green drilled an eight-foot jumper off of another West assist to cap the Celtics' run of unanswered points.
The 14-0 run was impressive because it had so many Celtics contributing to it. Yes, Rondo spearheaded the run with his six points and two assists, but Green, West, O’Neal, Pierce and Von Wafer (who skied high for a big rebound) all made important contributions.
The run was a microcosm of what this Celtics team has been known for throughout this season: teamwork, unselfish play and making key shots. Those characteristics had clearly been lacking from the team for the past three weeks, but they returned in a big way tonight. That 14-0 run was just some of the evidence.
Key Box Score Line
How do you choose a Key Box Score Line during a game in which two Celtics played absolutely spectacular basketball? We wish we didn't have to, but we do… so we’ll go with the man who propelled Boston to their huge victory in San Antonio.
Rajon Rondo was unstoppable tonight, and the San Antonio Spurs essentially admitted as much with the several different tactics they used to (try to) slow him down, all to no avail. Rondo finished the game with 22 points, five rebounds and 14 assists, but those number don’t even begin to explain how perfect he played.
His distribution? Perfect – literally. He racked up those 14 assists and did not turn the ball over a single time. He has trumped that performance only once this season, when he finished with 17 dimes and zero turnovers on Nov. 2 in Detroit.
His shooting? Not perfect, but close enough. He hit 11 of his 20 shot attempts, and you wouldn’t believe how many of them were perfect jumpers. He drilled shot after shot after shot, and when that was combined with his innate passing skills, San Antonio had no shot.
The Spurs attempted to slow him down by sending different, longer defenders at him such as Manu Ginobili. No help. They tried sagging off of him and making him beat them with a jumper. He did. They tried taking the ball out of his hands and making someone else make a play. Usually, though, he made a play while giving the ball up.
This was Rondo’s best game in more than a month, and his second straight ‘normal’ game, by his standards. He was gone for a while, but he’s clearly back. It’s no coincidence that it looks like the Celtics are back, too.
Box Score Nuggets
- Four Celtics scored at least 16 points, led by Rajon Rondo's 22 points.
- Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rondo scored 20, 21 and 22 points, respectively.
- Tony Parker scored a game-high 23 points. He also notched eight assists.
- Each team grabbed 43 rebounds.
- The Celtics racked up 29 assists and shot 54.8 percent from the field.
- San Antonio shot just 8-of-29 from the 3-point line.
- Tim Duncan was the only Spurs player to finish with a double-double. He had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
- Rondo (22 points, 14 assists) and Pierce (21 points, 11 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles for Boston.
- Rondo dished out his 14 assists while not committing a single turnover.
- In addition to his 21 points and 11 rebounds, Pierce also dished out seven assists
- Both teams grabbed six steals.
- Glen Davis came off the bench to notch 16 points and eight rebounds for the C's.
- Garnett shot 9-of-12 from the field.
- Jermaine O'Neal, who played for the first time since Jan. 10, finished with five points, one rebound and one assist in 11:12 of playing time.
- The Celtics committed only 11 turnovers, and the Spurs committed only 12.
- Duncan committed a game-high five turnovers.
- The teams combined to score 96 points in the paint (50 by San Antonio, 46 by Boston).
- Matt Bonner was the only Spurs player to finish with a positive plus/minus rating, at just plus-one.
- Sasha Pavlovic was the only Celtics player to finish with a negative plus/minus rating, at minus-five.
- Three of the game's reserves (Jeff Green, Bonner and Gary Neal) each scored eight points.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on Jermaine O'Neals comments after the game: "The first thing he said after the game was that the speed of the game is different than in a gym by myself."