Remember when the Celtics were a veteran team, and when they played back-to-back games they would normally lose the second of the two? Not much has changed, except for now the Celtics aren't getting the win on the first night either. After playing absolutely disgusting quality basketball against the Houston Rockets the night before, the Celtics at least came into this game and fought for most of it. Playing the Spurs is tough, it’s even tougher when you don’t have a core group of vet’s to help you play against the battled tested team.
This season for sure is going to be an emotional roller coaster, as the Celtics lost their first four to open up the season, followed that by winning the next four, and now the team is back to it’s losing ways. Last night, the C’s play almost three full quarters of good basketball against one of the leagues more elite teams. Why do we get excited about that, we still lost right? Of course the point of playing the game is to win, but with this team being young (and very inexperienced) we must pry the silver linings out of everything.
Coach Brad Stevens went with a different starting five last night; Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. This was the first start for second year man, Jared Sullinger, and he didn’t take that lightly, as he had a double-double before halftime. In the first half alone there were 10 lead changes, and 14 ties. “The team that played tonight could be a really fun group to build with. I think that’s what you take from here. We talked about this early in the year; there’s going to be nights where we measure progress a little bit differently,” Stevens said regarding to his young teams play in the first half. However, that progress was thrown off course in the second half, as the Spurs began to pull away late in the third. It was a one-possession lead for the Spurs, until an 8-0 surge put the Spurs overtop of the Celtics 71-60. From there on out, the Celtics never got closer then seven points. Once again we must look at the silver linings, and what this could mean for the future. Sullinger played on Tim Duncan all night, and still managed to score a game total of 19 points, and 10 rebounds. Jeff Green found his legs once again, after two dismal games in a row. Green scored 19 points in the games as well, and proved that when he wants to he can be the most dynamic player on the court for the C’s. The Olynyk and Sullinger combo worked magic, as in just 26 minutes of court time together the duo managed to be a plus-8 in the process. Coach Stevens is all about offensive numbers, so it will be interesting to see if he goes back to this lineup.
The downside to the game for the Celtics was there ability to generate points off of turnovers. The Celtics forced the Spurs to commit twelve turnovers, while only generating four points off of them. In this league when you force a team to commit a turnover, you must turn them into points. The Spurs in this game understood that, as they scored 25 points off of 17 turnovers for the C’s. The Celtics in this might as well not had a bench, as the produced only 16 points combined. This is has been a problem for the squad all this season, and until Coach Stevens finds a set starting five, it will continue to be a problem. No time to lick their wounds though, as the Celtics have a match against the very tough Indiana Pacers, followed by a Saturday night duel with the Atlanta Hawks. Competitiveness should never be an issue for the squad anymore, so don’t expect to see another Houston Rockets type effort. It may seem rough right now, but last nights game showed that this team can hang with anyone.