Celtics gotta be sharper to beat the Spurs

Celtics gotta be sharper to beat the Spurs

BOSTON – On to the next one.

Win or lose, this has been the unspoken approach taken by the Celtics following games.


And while some losses certainly linger longer than most, the 105-102 loss on Friday night to the San Antonio Spurs won’t be one of them.

For starters, Boston hasn’t won on the Spurs’ home floor since 2011. And while Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili's best years are indeed behind them, both played important roles on Friday night after neither played in Boston’s 108-94 win over San Antonio on Oct. 30.

Parker had 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting with five rebounds and four assists while Ginobili had 11 points which included the game-winning basket with five seconds to play.

The Celtics did not play one of their better games but did enough good things that would have been enough to beat most teams in the NBA.

The loss says more about how resilient and connected the Spurs are as a team and organization than it does about any specific shortcoming of the Celtics (22-5), who despite the loss, still maintain the best record in the Eastern Conference.

“You have to play so well for all 48 [minutes],” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We just had too many empty possessions. And they found multiple times throughout the game where they were in a rhythm of scoring and we just couldn’t break it. It was the difference in the game.”

Here are five other takeaways from the loss in San Antonio:

We saw two of the league’s top teams defensively go at it, but the Spurs’ were slightly better. They had a defensive rating for the game of 109.1 while the Celtics were at 115.9. That said, Boston still maintains the league’s best defense with a NBA-leading defensive rating of 99.4 (the only team with a defensive rating below 100.0) while the Spurs come in at No. 4 with a defensive rating of 100.8.

In the first quarter, the Celtics were whistled for six personal fouls with the only foul called against the Spurs wasn’t even against a player – it was a technical foul on coach Gregg Popovich, whose complaining about his players being roughed up by the Celtics found a receptive audience in the officials. The Spurs played a better game than the Celtics on many levels, without question. But it certainly didn’t hurt that San Antonio was whistled for 14 fouls compared to 22 against the Celtics. And those foul calls resulted in the Spurs making more free throws (21) than the Celtics attempted (17).

While there’s absolutely no reason to get in a panic, it’s worth noting how different the scoring in the fourth varied for the two teams. Boston, which has relied heavily on Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum to carry the offensive burden, were a combined 5-for-9 shooting in the fourth while the rest of the team shot just 2-for-9. The Spurs made eight baskets in the fourth with six different players, which speaks to the balance they displayed offensively that on this night at least, was good enough for the win.

When it comes to good play from the Celtics bench, they need at least one of the two Marcuses (Morris and Smart) to play well. Against the Spurs, both players failed to make the kind of impact Boston needs at either end of the floor. Morris had five points on 2-for-9 shooting and was among the handful of Celtics who had no answer for how to slow down LaMarcus Aldridge (27 points, 10 rebounds). And Smart, who hasn’t shot the ball particularly well all season, was 2-for-6 from the field which was actually an improvement on his overall shooting numbers this season. Still, he never seemed to get into any kind of flow defensively and his usual crisp playmaking wasn’t evident as well with him tallying more turnovers (three) than assists (two). Smart came into the game averaging 5.4 assists, tops among all backups in the NBA this season.

The Celtics continue trending in the wrong direction when it comes to rebounding. Despite being ranked ninth in the NBA in rebounding percentage (.515), the Celtics are in the bottom 10 in their past nine games (they’re 6-3 after having won their previous 16 games)in rebounding percentage (.480, 22nd in the league). On Friday, the Celtics’ rebounding percentage was just .459. 

NBC Sports Boston to air five Maine Red Claws games in 2018


NBC Sports Boston to air five Maine Red Claws games in 2018

Starting on Saturday, Jan. 20, NBC Sports Boston will televise five Celtics' G League affiliate Maine Red Claws games during the remainder of the 2017-18 season.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Maine Red Claws to offer basketball fans an opportunity to watch competitive and compelling Minor League basketball at the highest levels,” said Princell Hair, Senior Vice President & General Manager of NBC Sports Boston. “New England fans expect the best basketball coverage from us and we are confident we will offer an unparalleled viewing experience through these Red Claws games both on TV and online.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for us,” said Dajuan Eubanks, President of the Maine Red Claws. ”Red Claws games are a perfect opportunity to watch future Celtics stars like Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele grow. Being the proud affiliate of the Boston Celtics, it is a natural fit for the Red Claws to be teaming up with NBC Sports Boston, and bringing Crustacean Nation to all of New England.”

Here are the upcoming Red Claws games that will be offered on NBC Sports Boston this season:

  • Saturday, January 20th at 9:30pm vs. Westchester Knicks [Tape Delayed]
  • Sunday, January 28th at 1:00pm vs. Long Island Nets [LIVE]
  • Saturday, February 10th at 7:00pm vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants [LIVE]
  • Sunday, February 25th at 1:00pm vs. Windy City Bulls [LIVE]
  • Sunday, March 18th at 1:00pm vs. Lakeland Magicc[LIVE] 


Could Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas in deal for DeAndre Jordan or George Hill?


Could Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas in deal for DeAndre Jordan or George Hill?

BOSTON – Considering the expectations for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season and how they’ve fallen well short of meeting them thus far – even with LeBron James having an MVP-worthy season – it’s no surprise that the Cavs are ratcheting up their pursuit of potential trade targets to better position themselves for a postseason run that would include knocking off upper-tier teams in the East which includes the Boston Celtics. 

MORE - C's weaknesses exposed during two-game losing streak

Marc Stein of the New York Times reports that the Cavs are interested in pursuing a pair of separate deals involving the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Sacramento’s George Hill. 

As you look up and down the Cleveland roster, there are a ton of players who have done some amazing things in this league. 

Derrick Rose is a former league MVP. 

Dwyane Wade has won multiple NBA titles with and without LeBron James. 

Former Celtic Isaiah Thomas emerged from being an NBA afterthought to a player just a year ago had the highest scoring average of any player in the Eastern Conference. 

But that past success has meant little this season as the Cavs (27-17) are looking more and more like a team that instead of racing past foes, is closer to being put out to pasture as a title contender. 

They have to do something to try and close the ever-increasing gap forming between them and Boston and to a certain degree, the Toronto Raptors (30-13) who also have a better record than Cleveland. 

The most tradable asset Cleveland has besides James, is Kevin Love. 

He is having another all-star caliber season for the Cavs, but Love’s strong play can’t mask the team’s biggest weakness – team defense. 

Cleveland has a defensive efficiency rating of 109.2 which ranks 28th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA. 

Which is why making a move for Jordan would on many levels make a lot of sense. 

Cleveland would be parting ways with one of the best stretch bigs in the NBA in Love, but they would be adding a defensive presence in the middle that would instantly elevate them from being a cellar dweller defensively in the NBA.

And because of their $22.6 million salaries, you could make the deal straight-up without needing to include any additional players or picks.

As we’ve seen through the years, teams that compete at the highest of levels and make deep playoff runs tend to be average to above-average squads defensively. 

Which is why the Celtics (34-12) and their top-rated defense have been on the short list of title contenders who don’t reside in the Bay Area.

The addition of Jordan to the Cavs roster would certainly close that defensive gap that exists between Boston and Cleveland now. 

But that won’t be enough. 

They could use a little more fire power and versatility on the perimeter which is why the pursuit of George Hill would be a smart pick-up. 

Cleveland is helped by the fact that Hill is not happy with how things are playing out with the Kings in what has been a season that hasn’t gone quite how many in Sacramento had intended. 

Things began to unravel when Scott Perry left the franchise to become the General Manager of the New York Knicks. His departure seemed to usher in the return of their being a rebuilding mindset which is not what Hill signed up for. 

So, a chance for him to leave one of the worst teams in the NBA to play for one that’s focused on competing for titles, would be a welcomed change for sure. 

But what will the price be? 

The Cavs would certainly try and peddle J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert in a deal, but that’s not likely to get the attention of the Kings unless the Brooklyn pick Cleveland acquired in the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade with Boston, is included. 

Short of that, Cleveland might be asked to part with Isaiah Thomas although two league executives told NBC Sports Boston on Friday night that the idea of Thomas being traded back to the team that drafted him with the 60th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, is “highly unlikely” at this time.

The bottom line is we’re at the halfway point of the season and Cleveland doesn’t look like a team that’s built to compete for a title, and hasn’t shown signs of that changing anytime soon. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics have lost two in a row but their outlook is considerably more rosy. Not only because they have the best record in the East, but also because the identity of their team – good defensively, rarely gets blown out and can come back from huge deficits and beat anybody in the league, Golden State included – is akin to what you expect to see from title contenders. 

And while Cleveland didn’t get off to the best of starts last season and still managed to get all the way to the NBA Finals, there are a few changes this go around. 

There are legitimate threats to them in the East (Boston, Toronto) when last season truth be told, there were none. 

At this point a year ago, they were 30-14.

Today, they are 27-17. 

And maybe most important, as great a player as LeBron James is, he is not going to get them back to the Finals by himself. He’s worked harder than expected to get them to where they are now. 

Unless he gets more help, be it internally or externally via trade, James will find himself in an unfamiliar role when the NBA Finals around – a spectator.