Ford Keys to the Game: Spurs 87, Celtics 86
Spurs 87, Celtics 86
“The game came down to big plays,” said Doc Rivers after Boston’s game against the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night.
Sadly for the Celtics, they didn’t make enough of them.
They did, however, make one big play that led to the decisive final possession of the game.
Trailing by four with just 46.5 seconds left, Rivers drew up a play for his lowest-scoring starter on this night, Ray Allen. Allen was playing in his first game since March 22 and clearly showed some rust on his shot. He was just 1-for-5 to that point, but Rivers didn’t care. He was going to him.
Allen wound up drilling a 3-pointer from the right corner to cut the deficit down to one and put the pressure back on San Antonio. When the Spurs failed to respond, the Celtics were in position to win this game.
Kevin Garnett grabbed the rebound off of Danny Green’s missed 3-pointer and tossed an outlet pass to Rajon Rondo with about 10 seconds left. The play unfolded directly in front of Rivers, who opted not to call a timeout and instead waited to see what Rondo could find in transition. When transition game came up empty, Rivers called for a timeout with 7.9 seconds left in regulation.
Boston trailed by one at that point and just about everyone in the building knew where it was going. Kevin Garnett had been wide-open all night long on the pick-and-pop play with Paul Pierce, and if the Spurs defenders happened to switch on the play, Pierce would be left with a mismatch. Rivers knew that from the get-go, and those are two pretty darn good options.
And so there it was – the final possession of the game featuring a pick-and-pop play by Pierce and Garnett. As Rivers indicated after the game, the Celtics got exactly what they wanted.
“We actually said that they probably would (switch) and we were trying to get the (Tim) Duncan on Paul matchup because we thought we had the speed advantage,” Rivers said.
That’s clearly a mismatch the Celtics would take any day, and they did so on the final possession of the game. Pierce stepped back on the right wing as his teammates opened up the lane for him. He made a dribble move on Duncan and then drove to the elbow before stepping back for a 15-foot fade-away over the big man. The shot clanked off the back of the rim as time expired and Boston’s five-game win streak was snapped.
“I was trying to make the shot,” said Pierce. “I got the switch on the big man, got to a good place, just missed the shot.”
Rivers agreed that the shot came from a good place, but he did admit that the execution on the play wasn’t perfect. He wanted Pierce to take advantage of his speed against Duncan, and he wanted it to happen much earlier in the play.
“We told them they’d switch, get a matchup, and attack early,” remarked Rivers, who noted several times that he wanted the shot to come earlier in the play. “That’s the only thing we didn’t do.”
The Celtics also didn’t make the basket on the biggest play of the game.
Key Box Score Line
Rajon Rondo soaked in Kentucky’s national championship this week, and he reveled in the opportunity to play in front of his alma mater’s head coach tonight.
With John Calipari sitting courtside, Rondo recorded the game’s best stat line that included game highs of 11 assists and four steals. The point guard also scored 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting and chipped in three rebounds for Boston.
It wasn’t one of Rondo’s best games of the season, but it was certainly the best all around box score tonight. His assist total was nearly three times the total of the highest by any Spurs player, which was four by Gary Neal. Rondo was also one of just three starters in the game to shoot better than 50 percent on the night.
Rondo isn’t shy about his affinity for Kentucky. He even wore a pair of Kentucky shorts during Tuesday’s practice. Tonight, he was afforded the opportunity to show Kentucky’s head coach that he’s the top point guard to come out of that school in a long, long time.
Box Score Nuggets
- Five Spurs players scored in double-figures.
- Avery Bradley (19 points) and Rajon Rondo (17 points) each scored more points than any Spurs player.
- Bradley's 19 points off the bench were a game-high.
- Tim Duncan scored only 10 points but he did grab a game-high 16 rebounds.
- Paul Pierce led the Celtics in rebounding with 10, and he also chipped in 15 points.
- Boston limited San Antonio to its lowest-scoring quarter of the season with nine in the third, and lowest-scoring half of the season with 28 in the second half.
- There were four ties and four lead changes in the game.
- San Antonio committed 17 turnovers that led to 17 points for Boston.
- Four Celtics took at least 15 shots.
- Kevin Garnett logged 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
- Keyon Dooling contributed five points and three steals off the bench.
- Rajon Rondo dished out a game-high 11 assists.
- Five Spurs dished out two assists apiece.
- All five of San Antonio's reserves who appeared in the game attempted either six or nine shots.
- Tony Parker laid another dud against Rondo, finishing with just 10 points, one rebound and two assists.
- Brandon Bass shot 3-of-6 from the field and 3-of-6 from the free-throw line.
- The Celtics were outscored 18-4 in second-chance points.
- Boston was outrebounded by a count of 53-39.
Quote of the Night
Paul Pierce on the final shot of the game: "This type of stuff is not really scripted, you don’t have an idea of what’s going to happen in those type of situations. You get in those pressure situations and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t."