This was not how the Celtics saw 2018 ending for them.
Not only did they lose to the San Antonio Spurs, but they lost it in large part because their defense, usually a team strength, absolutely folded like a papier mache in the rain when the game mattered most. The end result? A 120-111 defeat.
“They were tremendous,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, whose team gave up 46 points in the third quarter. “It started by them overpowering us, getting to the rim clearly like a mindset of, ‘we’re going to the rim and make you stop us.’”
Boston adjusted to the deep penetration, but that only opened things up for a San Antonio squad that shoots a higher percentage from 3-point range than any team in the NBA.
And on Monday night, they delivered an above-average performance from behind the arc, connecting on 52.6 percent (14-for-26) of their 3-pointers.
When asked about the idea of a team scoring 46 points on their defense in one quarter, Marcus Morris acknowledged it was something he thought he would never see happening.
“They scored like 27 in eight minutes or so, something like that,” Morris told reporters. “You know, go back and watch film, correct mistakes. They made shots; their role guys, they made shots.”
Derrick White had 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting.
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Davis Bertrans had 17 points off the bench, which included five made 3’s.
And that doesn’t include LaMarcus Aldridge’s game-high 32 points or the near triple-double put up by DeMar DeRozan who had 13 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
While praising the Spurs for a well-played game, the Celtics are well aware that defensively they did not play their game.
“We just didn’t play with presence,” said Jaylen Brown, who tallied a season-high 30 points. “They were making shots and they didn’t feel us. We have to have more of a presence; people in this league are too good to come out and not exert energy on both ends of the ball.”
And while the Celtics had a strong first half and seemingly had the Spurs reeling, Boston has too many players who've seen how the Spurs can quickly swing the momentum in their favor particularly when they are at home, where they improved to 15-5 this season.
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“See that’s the difference, you never have the Spurs where you want them,” Kyrie Irving told reporters. “They’re too well-coached; they play too hard. We had no rim presence, we couldn’t get a rebound and they had 46 in the third. You can’t win an NBA game playing that way.”
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