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There was so much positive to take for the Celtics Friday in the first 46 minutes.


They hung neck and neck with the best road team in basketball and one of the great franchises in all of sports for the last two decades.


They jumped out to a 24-10 lead. They shutdown three of San Antonio’s best players for most of the game, forcing Gregg Popovich to turn to his bench in crunch time against Boston’s starters.


But then the Celtics realized what so many others have found out when playing the Spurs: If you don’t finish, you usually don’t win. And the Celtics lost 109-103 at TD Garden.


In the final two minutes Friday afternoon, the Celtics had the crowd on its feet as they closed an eight-point hole to just three with 90 seconds left. But with just 44 seconds left, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart miscommunicated and found themselves guarding space in the paint instead of Patty Mills. Mills drained the three and it was a six-point game again. Then the Celtics battled back again. They had the lead down to 107-103 with 35 seconds left. Instead of fouling, Brad Stevens decided to have his team play good defense. They did. One problem: They didn’t box out LaMarcus Aldridge, who got the offensive rebound and helped the Spurs kill the rest of the clock.


“Well we didn’t rebound a couple of big shots and then I thought obviously losing Mills in the corner was a big play,” Stevens said. “They’re a hard team to guard. I thought we missed a couple of opportunities on both ends.


“I think home, road, 20 years whatever its been they finish; its who they are, it’s what they do. They have excellent players, obviously and excellent system and style of play and got great play off their bench tonight. I thought their bench was the biggest difference in the game scoring 56 points total and when you combine that with the rebounding when you’re minus 9, which hopefully you can manage that and be a little bit closer even with the size difference. We have to play a little bit better to win that game against a really good team.

“You score 103, have 32 assists on 10 turnovers we attacked the paint all [game]. Our goal was attack the paint and I thought we attacked the paint all night. Sometimes that means you are going to get shots at the rim, sometimes you’re not, sometimes it means that you’re going to get to the foul line, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it means you’re going to make the right next play and kick it out and move the ball and attack again. I thought offensively we were pretty good. We missed I thought a couple of shots late around the rim and then the three that we can hit. I felt good about how we were attacking for the most part.”


Are the Celtics, now 9-7, making improvements in the eyes of Stevens?


“Yeah we are playing better,” Stevens said. “I don’t know exactly where to put them on the spectrum on where we ultimately need to be but we’re getting better.”


As expected, the bigger Spurs won the battle of the boards, 45-36. Thanks to David Lee (15), Davis Bertans (15) and Patty Mills (19), they also won the battle of bench scoring, 56-30.


“I think it’s game to game. I think we’ve done better of getting guys off the glass,” Stevens said. “I thought we had a couple of loose balls that we just didn’t quite get to. I didn’t think it was an effort or focus or anything like that, I just felt like they got to the ball a little bit quicker and there’s going to be some size rebounds too; like the glass rebound of the game was a size rebound.


“Ultimately, there are things that we can do better and again that is why I’ve said it all year it’s not about us outrebounding the Spurs by 20, its about being about even and that gives us our best chance of winning. I thought 10 turnovers against that team with 32 assists and moving the ball and doing the little things and pretty good defensively within our system except for that couple of plays. We just got to manage it a little better to win that game.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia


What can the Celtics take from a close call against the Spurs Friday afternoon at TD Garden? Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon have the positives from a Celtics loss.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

For the first time this season, a Celtics team that was at full-strength faced one of the best teams in the league. 

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard

For the first time this season, a Celtics team that was at full-strength faced one of the best teams in the league. 

Although the C’s have already played against teams like the Cavaliers and the Warriors, both games were played without Al Horford and Jae Crowder. After sweeping their three-game road trip, Horford, Crowder and the Celtics battled against the third-best team in the NBA — the San Antonio Spurs (13-3) — but were outplayed in the second half en route to a 109-103 loss at TD Garden.

Isaiah Thomas’ 3-pointer from the corner with one minute left pulled the Celtics to within three points before Spurs guard Patty Mills answered Thomas with a 3 of his own — making it a two-possession game (107-101). Out a timeout, Horford’s dunk pulled the game to within four points but the Celtics surrendered a crucial offensive rebound to Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge — who made both free-throws with 18.5 ticks left and that pretty much sealed the game.

The backcourt duo of Isaiah Thomas (24 points, 8 assists) and Avery Bradley (19 points, 8 rebounds) led the Celtics and Jae Crowder had his best shooting night — finishing with 18 points on 7-of-11 shots.

Leonard finished with a game-high 25 points to go with his 9 rebounds and 4 assists and Mills’ 19 points led the Spurs’ bench. San Antonio’s bench made a big difference in this one. They combined for a whopping 56 points. Former Celtic David Lee finished with a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Davis Bertans added 15 points, including 3-of-5 from deep. 

For a complete box score, click here

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

The Celtics got off to a quick start, thanks in part to Crowder and Bradley — they combined for 19 points and along with Thomas’ 7 points, raced out to a quick start. Clinging to a double-digit lead, the Celtics took a 10-point lead into the second quarter (32-22). However, the Spurs found their offensive rhythm after the first quarter by going on a 12-0 run, pulling to within one point. Celtics took a two-point lead (48-46) into halftime. 

It only took two minutes into the second half for San Antonio to grab their first lead of the game. The Spurs executed pick-and-roll plays that led to backdoor cuts for easy buckets down low. But the Celtics’ defense kept them afloat. They made stops throughout the quarter and on the other end of the floor, the Celtics had great ball movement which lead to open jump shots and uncontested 3-pointers.

But the Spurs’ 5-0 run, including a  3-pointer by Mills at the end of the quarter, giving San Antonio a one point lead (75-74) heading into the final frame. The Celtics gave up a lot of offensive rebounds (12), including five in the fourth quarter, which led to 15 second-chance points for the Spurs. San Antonio’s offense took over the game when they needed it most. They scored 34 points on 10-of-18 attempts and finished 22-25 from the free-throw line.

Stud(s) of the night: Spurs bench

Leonard certainly had himself a night but it was San Antonio’s bench that kept them ahead throughout the second half. Mills caught fire and Lee’s offensive rebounding kept their possessions alive in the fourth quarter — which help the Spurs keep their offensive rhythm alive.

Dud of the night: Amir Johnson

In a game where the Celtics really needed their big men to step up on the defensive end, Amir Johnson did little to nothing in trying to slow down LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and David Lee. He made committed easy-to-call fouls, only pulled down two rebounds and finished scoreless (0-for-5) on the other end of the floor. Johnson has really struggled throughout this season’s first 16 games. 

Why the game was lost: Spurs offensive rebounding/free-throws

The Celtics picked the wrong time to give up offensive rebounds and the most crucial rebounds — Aldridge with 18.5 left — sealed their fate. The Celtics were gaining momentum offensively in the fourth quarter but offensive rebounding and the Spurs’ trips to the free-throw line prevented the C’s from gaining a significant advantage. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

It was pretty obvious what Brad Stevens was most thankful for on Thursday. 

For the first time this season, his team is fully healthy and the result has been a spike in the win column.

IMG_1573

Tony Parker fires up jumpers pregame Friday at TD Garden. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

It was pretty obvious what Brad Stevens was most thankful for on Thursday. 

For the first time this season, his team is fully healthy and the result has been a spike in the win column.

For the last three games, Stevens has been able to fill out a starting lineup consisting of Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson. The result? A spotless 3-0 mark. 

As a matter of fact, the Celtics are 5-1 this season when Horford starts. So for just the second time this year at home, Stevens was able to declare, “everybody’s good to go,” Friday morning in his pre-game update with reporters. 

“I think we’ve seen a little bit of what that would be like the last couple of games,” Stevens said.

Indeed, with the projected starting lineup back, the Celtics have allowed 92, 93 and 93 points in three wins to improve to 9-6 on the season. 

“Obviously, there’s times in each of the games where I played the bench a little bit more or a little bit less than you would,” the coach added. “But I feel pretty good about how we’re going to rotate as we continue to move forward. Obviously we’ve played a lot of numbers thus far, but I feel like if we have a better matchup or something we haven’t tried, I’ve got a lot of trust in those guys that have been playing to put them in there even if they haven’t played.

“Tyler [Zeller] being a good example in each of the last couple of games played less minutes than the other bigs, but came in and gave us great minutes in that third quarter against Brooklyn and kind of turned the game back towards our favor. That group turned the game back towards our favor.”

As for the early Black Friday matinee start of 1 p.m., Stevens said there should be no turkey hangover. 

“It’s a 1 o’clock start and Thanksgiving for them, too. So there’s no excuses there,” Stevens said. 

The Thanksgiving start shouldn’t be a problem but the 12-3 Spurs certainly are. They are again off to a machine-like start, like the Patriots in every sense. Bill Belichick’s close friend Gregg Popovich once again has the Spurs playing great basketball, ranking ninth in team defense at 98.3 points allowed per game. Leading the defensive charge is two-time defensive player of the year, Kawhi Leonard. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

“You’d know the numbers better than I would probably if you look through them, but I would say he’s a very unique player,” Stevens said. “One of the best in the league certainly. His ability to guard any number of positions 1 through 4 is very, very rare, and then his ability now to not only play in pick-and-roll and play facing the basket, but also post up if you have to go with smaller guys – he’s a handful. He’s a problem.”

The Spurs generate multiple mismatches with a starting lineup that is bigger than normal at the 2, 3 and 4 positions.

“They’re a really big team. And at the same time they do a lot of what some of the smaller teams do with switching a lot and keeping guys in front, and trying to keep people from taking threes,” Stevens said. “They’re great defending the 3-point line even with that size, and obviously it’s hard to score on the rim when they’re all converged on you. So they do a great job of making you take the shots they want you to take.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

If you missed the Celtics’ 111-92 victory over the Nets on Wednesday night, take a break from your Thanksgiving meal Thursday and check out the highlights.

If you missed the Celtics’ 111-92 victory over the Nets on Wednesday night, take a break from your Thanksgiving meal Thursday and check out the highlights.

The C’s played their most entertaining game of the young season, demonstrating tremendous ball movement — leading to 26 assists — and coming up with a handful of dazzling plays in a dismantling of the Nets that capped a 3-0 road trip.

Isaiah Thomas led the way with 23 points and five assists. Avery Bradley had 22 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Al Horford amassed 17 points, five rebounds and eight assists. Jae Crowder added 15 points and five boards.

Contributions came from everywhere. Jonas Jerebko (10 points) did his part to keep the Celtics in charge when the Nets were trying to make a run early in the fourth quarter. The Swede hit three shots in a row, including a corner trey. However, Brooklyn was able to close to within seven before Boston finally put it away. Bradley had a big bucket in the closing stretch when he drove baseline past Robin Lopez, who had switched out on him, missed a lay-in but then immediately jumped up from the other side of the rim and tapped in the rebound with one hand for a 13-point lead with 5:11 remaining, leading to a Nets timeout.

The Celtics looked like they were ready to deliver the knockout blow when they went on a 16-4 run to closet out the third quarter and take a 79-66 lead. The spurt featured a nice play by Marcus Smart when he drove to the top of the lane, dribbled behind his back, then made a nifty pass to a cutting Tyler Zeller for a wide-open layup and one of his eight assists.

The Celtics, for a change, got off to a fast start, taking a 14-point lead after one period and extending it to 17 early in the second quarter. However, the Nets used a 21-6 run to get right back in it, with Bojan Bogdanovic scoring 10 of those points, and it remained a two-point game at the break, 51-49.

Sean Kilpatrick led the Nets with 23 points, while Trevor Booker netted 18 with 12 rebounds and four steals.

The Celtics next host the Spurs on Friday at 1 p.m.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

The Timberwolves entered Monday’s game ranked last in the league in second-half scoring. Luckily for Boston, that trend continued, as the Celtics rallied in the fourth quarter for a 99-93 road victory.