Thursday, March 31, 2011

Celtics close out Spurs in second half: BOS 107 SA 97

In the Celtics' recent slide, it's been arguably the subpar play of Rajon Rondo holding the team back the most. Tonight, he had 22 points, 14 assists, five rebounds and no turnovers as he sparked the Boston Celtics to an inspiring 107-97 road win over the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.

It's the fifth consecutive loss for San Antonio -- the longest losing streak for the Spurs since April of 1997

Paul Pierce had 21 points in an
inspiring Celtic victory.
Paul Pierce had a double double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Kevin Garnett added 20 points and nine rebounds. Glen Davis came up big off of the bench, scoring 16 points with eight rebounds. Ray Allen added 13 points despite 3-of-11 shooting. The Celtics shot 54.8 percent on the night.

Tonight was the return of Jermaine O'Neal, who hadn't suited up for the Celtics since January 10th. As expected, he didn't fill up the stat sheet but played solid defense in 11:12 minutes.

However, as one big body returned another took an exit. Nenad Krstic left the game in the second quarter after his knee bent awkwardly while driving to the basket. He was taken to the locker room by Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte while hobbling badly. The Celtics are calling it a right knee injury.

San Antonio also had some injuries of their own heading into tonight's game. Spurs stars Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess all missed Monday's game. There was a question as to whether they would start tonight, however Doc Rivers said he had no doubt they would be suiting up. Sure enough he was right.

Tony Parker scored 23 points for the Spurs while dishing out eight assists. Tim Duncan had a double double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Richard Jefferson added 14 points. The Spurs attempted a total of 29 threes, making just eight of them.

Things came together for the Celtics in the third quarter, mainly due to the play of Rajon Rondo.

Boston took their first lead since the beginning of the first quarter on a 12-2 run to begin the third. Yet nine quick unanswered points from San Antonio -- highlighted by back to back threes from Matt Bonner -- gave the Spurs the advantage again.

Then the Rondo show took over.

Rondo scored six straight points, two of which mid-range jumpers, assisted on two other baskets and reeled in three rebounds spurring a 14-0 response from the Celtics which had them jumping ahead by ten, their highest lead of the game to that point. They closed out the third leading by seven, 77-70.

However, as big as third was for Boston, the fourth quarter had been the Celtics' Achilles heel in their recent slump. Something the Spurs had to be fully aware of.

San Antonio's Gary Neal and Tim Duncan tried to rally their team back into the game in the final quarter. Neal had eight points over the first five minutes of the fourth and Duncan had 10 in the final five and a half. However, their efforts weren't enough as the Celtics couldn't miss -- shooting 63% in the fourth -- and climbed out to their largest lead of the game, 12. The Spurs had cut their deficit down to as much as seven but a trio of jumpers from Kevin Garnett kept them at bay. The Celtics closed out the game 107-97.

The Celtics and Spurs played an intense first half. Boston took a one point lead just over a minute into the game but they'd never climb any higher than that until after halftime. Kevin Garnett sat out most of the opening frame with two quick fouls. Both the Spurs and Celtics shot over 50% in the first quarter and Boston entered the second frame trailing 33-31.

The C's trailed by as much as seven in the opening minutes of the second quarter. However, Garnett's eight second quarter points helped them climb back in it, heading into halftime tied 49-49. Paul Pierce led Celtic scorers with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting at the half while Tony Parker led San Antonio with 14.

The Celtics improve to 52-22 and next play the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night on the road at 8:00pm EST.

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