Five takeaways from Celtics' loss to Spurs
Five takeaways from Celtics' loss to Spurs: What elite looks like
BOSTON – Think back to 2013 when Danny Ainge traded away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, brought in a new coach with zero NBA experience as a coach or a player and the franchise was in a clear state of uncertainty.
Since then there has been a steady amount of improvement on so many levels, but an NBA power?
They are not.
The 109-103 loss to San Antonio on Friday is a reminder of this. The Spurs did what elite NBA title contenders do all the time – find a way to win when they are facing a legit challenge.
Their ability to execute down the stretch, getting key stops and big baskets were the things that the Celtics hope to do more of as a franchise going forward.
It was a good lesson for all involved, the kind of lesson that the Celtics should learn and grow from.
Here are five other takeaways from the loss:
BENCH UPS AND DOWNS
This game featured a handful of proven stars, but it was San Antonio’s bench that ultimately determined the outcome. The Celtics don’t necessarily need a reserve to light it up the way Patty Mills (19 points) and ex-Celtic David Lee (15 points, 12 rebounds) did for the Spurs. But they can’t allow second-unit guys to put up those kind of numbers and not at least come back with comparable performances.
Jae Crowder’s left ankle injury is still not fully healthy, but Friday was indeed a sign that he’s starting to get better. He had a season-high 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting (he was 4-for-9 on 3s) with 10 points coming in the first quarter. He also had five assists and a steal while playing 28 minutes which is 5-8 minutes more than he’s supposed to at this point.
FREE THROWS COSTLY
Nine free throws. That’s what happens when you have one player (Isaiah Thomas) taking the bulk of your free throws, and it’s a night when he’s not getting many calls. But the Celtics are a jump-shooting team and that often leads to lots of games with few calls made. Still, nine free throws...
JEREBKO STEPS UP
It’s easy to forget Jonas Jerebko was a starter at the end of last season. Brad Stevens remembers and has gotten solid play of late out of Jerebko in a limited capacity. He only played 11 minutes against the Spurs but still scored seven points, grabbed three rebounds and did a decent job defensively. He continues to solidify his presence in the team’s regular rotation.
REBOUND CONCERNS CONTINUE
Near the end of the game, the Celtics needed to force a San Antonio miss and get the rebound. The first part? Good. The second? Not so much, as LaMarcus Aldridge grabbed the offensive board to seal the Spurs victory. That was part of a -13 (45-32) rebounding night for the Celtics, who remain one of the NBA’s worst on the glass this season. It’s the issue that there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut solution to fixing aside from a trade. Amir Johnson isn’t a high volume rebounder, but they need more than 4.3 rebounds per game. Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller, they too need to provide more production on the boards.