C’s Fall Short to Spurs Despite Disruptive Defense Down the Stretch

The Boston Celtics delivered one hustle play after another while attempting to gain a lead over the San Antonio Spurs during the waning minutes of Wednesday night’s matchup at TD Garden.

But while their defense excelled time and time again, the Celtics’ offense continued to fall short right up to the final buzzer, allowing San Antonio to hold on for a 99-97 win at TD Garden.

The final three minutes of the fourth quarter was a dreadful stretch for both teams, as they managed to make just one field goal apiece during that span.

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart snagged two steals apiece during the final 156 seconds, but they also combined to miss four layups during that stretch, including Brown’s final game-tying attempt which trickled off the rim at the buzzer.

“I don’t feel like we took advantage of the opportunities we had in the third and fourth,” head coach Ime Udoka said after the game. “We defended it much better in the second half, holding them to 22 (points) and 19 (points) in the third and fourth where they were scoring much easier in the first half (58 points total). Then offensively we got a little stagnant. Every time we had a chance to really take the lead, or push the lead up, or get it close, especially down late in the fourth quarter, we took some poor shots.”

Brown provided two spectacular defensive plays during the final 15 seconds alone, both of which gave the Celtics a chance to tie.

First, he jarred the ball loose from Derrick White’s grasp as the Spurs were bringing the ball up to center court, and the two of them dove on the loose ball simultaneously to force a jump ball. However, White won the jump ball and the Celtics were forced to foul with 5.7 seconds remaining.

Not yet in the bonus, San Antonio attempted to inbound from midcourt, but had to call a timeout due to Boston’s suffocating defensive pressure. On the second attempt, Brown intercepted Jock Landale's inbound pass and took it straight to the hoop, but his contested layup kissed the rim three times before falling to the floor as the final horn sounded.

“Got a good steal, going against the clock, just blew the layup,” admitted Brown, who played a strong offensive game aside from the final quarter as he poured in a game-high 30 points, 28 of which came during the first three frames.

Udoka had Brown’s back on the final play, noting how the team blew many other opportunities beforehand.

“It doesn’t come down to the last play, the missed shot,” the coach stated. “It's the third and fourth quarter when we took some poor shots or missed some passes that we were trying to run for certain plays and for certain players, and so we have to execute a little better there and just bring the energy from the start.”

Brown agreed with Udoka that while the team was active on the defensive end, it became stagnant on the offensive side, leading them to a frustrating dead end.

“We’ve gotta keep moving, keep cutting with pace,” said the veteran wing. “I thought in the fourth quarter we got away from what we wanted to do. We were rushing a little bit. We should have taken our time. We had some calls that didn’t go our way. That was tough. Some we disagreed with. But man, it sucks to lose this one. Because we wanted to win this one.”

Despite the frustrating nature of the defeat, Brown and his teammates are looking forward to giving themselves a chance at redemption. They’ll get to do so in less than 24 hours, as they’ll head to Madison Square Garden Thursday night to face the New York Knicks in the second game of a back-to-back.

“As tough as the loss was, we’ve gotta come back ready tomorrow, ready to play against a team that’s been playing well of late, that’s hungry, that wants to beat us,” said Brown. “And we’ve gotta do our job.”

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