Beating San Antonio in late October may have seemed like just one of the many clubs Boston sent away with a loss.
But the Spurs’ victory was, well, different.
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It was the first real test for the Celtics who had lost their previous six games on the TD Garden floor to the Spurs.
Beating them, obviously, was a big deal.
And to do it on the road?
That would be even more impressive considering the Celtics have lost 11 of the last 12 games on the road against the Spurs (17-8) heading into tonight’s matchup.
This season has been one in which the Celtics have had several mile marker-type wins to their credit, victories that in many ways validated them as one of the better teams in the NBA.
And the first of the bunch was Boston’s 108-94 win over the Spurs on Oct. 30, a game in which the Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker.
But as we’ve seen time and time again, the Spurs are still one of the league’s best teams when it comes to winning, regardless of who is in their lineup or not.
Making Boston’s success thus far so surprising is how much they have leaned on first- and second-year players to win games.
“You never know how quick guys are going to pick up things,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “But from Day One with this group, guys try to play the right way, they’re about the right things. When you have a group of guys like that, you get these kind of results.”
In addition to getting significant contributions from rookies like Jayson Tatum as well as second-year wing Jaylen Brown, Boston has also benefited from playing their best basketball in the second half of games.
Boston ranks among the top-10 teams in the NBA in several categories based on second-half play, such as field goal percentage (.466, 8th in the NBA), 3-pointers made (5.7, 8th), 3-point percentage (.390, 3rd), points scored (53.6, 6th) in addition to a league-best defensive rating of 96.9 and an offensive rating of 111.4 which is second in the league.
“Initially hearing that, you don’t want to necessarily be a second-half team,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “Some of our first halves haven’t been the best; we understand that. Teams come out and hit us right away. We’ve come to expect (that) and we always try to keep it within (close) distance, especially if we’re not playing particularly well on both ends of the floor. The second half, we have to raise our level of play. Otherwise, teams are going to kick our butts.”