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Boston Cs Get a B on their ‘Popp’ Quiz

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San Antonio head coach Gregg Poppovich called this a good test for his club. The final grade was 90 to 83: Celtics.

The Celtics passed, though I wouldn’t call it a complete failure for the Spurs.

It wasn’t the Celtics ‘A’ game either, but behind Kevin Garnett’s 20 points, Rajon Rondo’s 12 assists and some pretty solid team defense, the Boston Celtics outlasted the surging San Antonio Spurs for their 6th win in a row.

Boston opened shooting .579%, including some fast break points off 6 Spur turnovers, while San Antonio went 1 for 5 from the free throw line. The Celtics went up by 12-4 and led 25 to 15 after one period. They maintained the lead throughout the game.

It was a good ‘test’ game for both clubs. Each team came in on 5 game winning streaks, but none of those wins for either team were against anyone you would circle on the schedule, and certainly no real contenders.

Two of the best coached teams in the league, they both are very disciplined ball clubs and grind it out offensively. They are each led by two of the best and fastest, but worst shooting guards in the league, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker. They also have two of the best power forwards in the NBA in Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

The Spurs are coming together a bit after a 4-6 start themselves and are getting 3 new starters and 5 new roster players learning to play the Spurs way.

The Celtics, save rebounding, are starting to look better at many aspects of their own game.

I guess you can give them an ‘A’ for their ‘D’. They held San Antonio to 7 of 22 shooting to open the game and just 83 points and 42% shooting on the night. The Celtics created 18 Spur turnovers, including 7 steals with 3 of them copped by league leader Rajon Rondo.

Rondo’s active energy at both ends of the court stands out most every game, in part, due to the lack of it by the rest of the team. Saying that, the Celtics defense was more active in this game than it has been in most recent games.

The truth is that both teams were missing open three point shots all night. So both teams get Fs for their threes.

But the Celtics gave San Antonio far too many second chances with a ridiculous 20 offensive boards. Duncan had 7 and board eater DeJuan Blair had 5 of those 20. The Spurs scored 52 points in the paint. Most of them came on solid drives, inside passes, and put backs, while some came off fast breaks.

That the Celtics maintained the lead throughout was a credit to their overall tenacity, though certainly not their rebounding skills. Taking away the 2 for 16 from the arc for the Spurs, they shot 35 for 72 which includes the Spurs paint attack.

That actually means the Celtics contested all of the offensive rebounds and inside shooting fairly well. It would obviously be much easier if they took care of defensive rebounding better.

Spurs’ Blair Scores Two for Celtics

The Celtics even got Spurs rookie DeJuan Blair to put the ball back in the hoop for them on a Celtic miss. Blair went to grab the rebound with one hand and lost control and accidently pushed it back up and in for two points for the Cs. It almost was the difference in the game as San Antonio came back to get with 4 points twice in the closing minutes.

Wouldn’t that have been something. Blair put back wins game….for Celtics.

This game was really about what each team didn’t do, as much as what each team did. Turnovers and poor foul shooting got the Spurs in an early hole.

Poor rebounding, a Boston mediocrity all season, and especially on the offensive boards tonight, allowed the Spurs to climb back into the game in the second half. The Celtics had 2 paltry offensive boards all game.

Rasheed Wallace did hit two three pointers, blocked 4 shots, had a few ‘knock aways’ from behind the man he defends (he’s really good at that, I’m finding out) and did play some solid defense, but grabbed just 2 rebounds in almost 16 minutes.

In a Doc Rivers twist, Shelden Williams did not play at all in this contest. Brian Scalabrine got Shelden Williams (12) minutes in this contest.

A strong first quarter by the Boston Celtics, and consistent out side shooting throughout by Kevin Garnett kept the San Antonio Spurs at bay the rest of the game.

Ray Allen was solid shooting (6 for 12) until the last quarter (0 for 3) and finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists with 2 TOs.

Rajon Rondo had 12 assists but could have had more if a few more open threes went down for the Cs. The Celtics went just 4 of 18 from downtown with Pierce and Allen going 1 for 8 on mostly open looks.

The Celtics, led by Paul Pierce, started the year blazing from the arc. They are now shooting a mundane 35.4% (before this game) overall.

Kendrick Perkins had 9 points and 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks, while doing fairly well against Duncan all night.

Paul Pierce was off shooting for the second game in a row, hitting just 2 of 9 for 8 points and only 2 rebounds and no assists in an uncharacteristic game for him.

Have you ever noticed that Ray Allen and Paul Pierce almost never have good games together on the same night?

Rajon Rondo took and hit more jumpers in this game. He finished with 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting with 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 TOs, and a block. He hit a big jumper with 2 minutes left to give the Celtics an 87-81 lead. Take that Tony Parker.

Kevin Garnett finished with game honors with the 20 points on a sharp 9 of 15 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, with zero turnovers in 35 minutes.

The Celtic bench was outplayed by the Spurs bench, with Wallace adding 13 points, Marquis Daniels contributing 6 points with 1 rebound, and 1 assists in 16 plus minutes.

Eddie House had a quiet 5 points on 1 of 3 shooting, with 2 rebounds.

Celtics get “F” in Rebounding

Or maybe it should be a ‘D’ as in destroyed. After going even in the first half, San Antonio’s 33 to 11 second half rebounding rampage nearly saved the day for the Spurs, as Boston continues to be a puzzle in that category. In fact, one wonders how they even won the game with such a disparity. Those are losers’ numbers. Yet the Spurs only outscored the Celtics 44-43 in the second half.

So you might want to ask the Spurs how they could out rebound the Cs by a 3 to1 ratio and… still lose. A big part of that answer was that the Celtics didn’t let them convert enough to take over. As poorly as they rebounded, Perkins, Garnett, and Wallace did a good enough job of defending to keep the conversion rate manageable…barely.

But the league’s rule says you only have to win by one and the Celtics actually never let them get closer than 4 points.

Last season, the Celtics were a top 3 team in out rebounding their opponents. This season they are just breaking even, putting them in the middle of the pack.

The Spurs are second in the league in defensive rebounds (32.5) and are third in differential (+3.1). They showed why last night with aging Tim Duncan showing the way with 15, while rookie board specialist DeJuan Blair added 11 to go with his career high 18 points. He may be the second coming of Charles Barkley. He is, at least, a poor man’s imitation. He’s got the ‘round mound’ look down too.

I haven’t seen a 6’ 5” player play with such effect in the power forward position since Barkley retired. The kid looks good….very good. Gregg Popovich will have to make room for him in the rotation soon. The Spurs are 9-7, too early to make any judgments, and Popovich said he’s still searching out a starting five that works best.

The Celtics have now won 4 straight in San Antonio, after losing 15 straight there, starting, not coincidentally, with the coming of Duncan. It is just another reason to be proud of this team, enjoy this team, and to bask in the here and now, the continuing journey of this special assembly of  tough minded, colorful talent. Flawed? Perhaps, but what team isn’t. Enjoy the ride. There is much basketball left to be played.

So the Celtics are making like Bachman Turner Overdrive and taking care of business. (Oldie alert – in more ways than one.)  But they still have room for improvement.

And if someone can, please explain the rebounding mystery to me.

Next up: Oklahoma City Thunder – Tonight

Thomas Halzack

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