Jason Tatum scored 34, Jaylen Brown added 29, but had Malcolm Brogdon (23 points on 8/12 shooting, 7 assists, and a team high +10) and Robert Williams (10 points, 11 rebounds, 2 rebounds) off the bench. steals, 4 blocks) that sparked Celtics And giving them a narrow 121-116 victory to close out their wild ride.
The Celtics led 112-101 with six minutes left, but the Spurs equalized in the last minute. Some defensive plays from Williams and Derrick White (11 assists and 3 blocks) sealed the game. The Spurs finished with eight players scoring in double figures.
On the surface, this matchup featured a team with the best record in the NBA and a perfectly healthy roster against one of the worst teams in the league playing without their top three players (Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, and Jacob Boltel). But once you look at the last 15 matches, these teams are shockingly similar. The Spurs have a 7-8 record and an offensive rating of 115.6, while the Celtics are 8-7 with a 112.7 O-RTG. As we learned from Tuesday’s debacle in Oklahoma City, disrespecting a less talented opponent is an easy formula for disappointing loss.
The Celtics played strong edge defense, forcing San Antonio to miss seven times to open the game. Romeo Langford, making his 12th start of the season, got them on the board with a slide pass. In Derrick White’s first game against his former team, he responded with 1-and-1, and the Celtics built an early double-digit lead. Tottenham honored him with this tribute video:
White had a strong first quarter, tallying 7 points, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Malky Branham and Stanley Johnson led the bench scoring combo with 16 points in the first quarter, putting the Spurs back in the game after looking ahead at first. The Celtics led 33-30 after twelve minutes.
Tatum scored 10 points to open the second quarter, prompting Gregg Popovich to call timeouts twice in four minutes. Bob was known for his quick laps early in the quarter, but tonight he seemed particularly dissatisfied with his team’s efforts. Zach Collins looked like he got the message, scoring 10 points in the second quarter on 4/4 shooting.
A minute before halftime, Robert Williams made this play that temporarily turned NBC Boston’s Brian Scalabrine into a fan:
The Celtics led 68-57 at the half. It should have been more, but they missed a few free throws and made two turnovers in the last minute. However, the Celtics played an impressive half of basketball, shooting 55 percent from the court and 53 percent from three while collecting 17 assists. Gay combined for 35 and Malcolm Brogdon scored 11 runs on 4/5 shooting. For the Spurs, Josh Richardson scored 10 goals off the bench, and although they struggled with depth, they shot 53 percent from two-point range.
The Celtics could have made a statement with a solid start in the third quarter, but instead they opened up the 1/6 shooting with two turns. A Langford tear capped a 13-3 Spurs lead, and the Celtics’ 11-point lead fell to one. San Antonio made it competitive, but they were unable to take the lead.
Timelord checked in at 3:43 and instantly brought life into the game. First, he had a prominent transitional block on Branham, then found Tatum on a backdoor, and finished the quarter with a base hit from a Brogdon assist. The Celtics led 93-89 in the fourth quarter. Trey Jones led the Spurs with 11 points in the third quarter and Marcus Smart returned to the locker room with a bruised knee.
Brodgen and Doug McDermott traded buckets to open the final period, then rocked Sam Houser on a three-pointer to give the Celtics a 103-95 lead. After a timeout, Joe Mazzola gave Brogdon the attacking keys on every possession, and proceeded to chop and dice whatever cover the Spurs were throwing at him. He found the Browns on a piece from the rim and then set up Tatum for three, growing Boston’s lead to 11.
Boston held their double-digit lead until five minutes later when the Spurs stormed back. Jeremy Suchan scored two consecutive touchdowns to cut the score to 114-109, then Langford cut a 17 tail with 1:42 remaining to cut the lead to three. He returned the next possession and converted the ball on a layup, then Richardson hit a winger on the third to tie the game at 116 with 37 seconds to play.
Tatum responded with a simple one-leg base jump, and on the next defensive possession, Timelord played a lock defense on Langford and Al Horford secured the rebound. It was a gamble getting the ball in, and Tatum missed a free throw that would have put the game out of reach, but Boston secured the offensive rebound and Brogdon hit two free throws for a 121-116 win.
The Celtics improve to 28-12 and head home Monday to play the Bulls.