By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Pierce Ends Duncan’s Streak At The Garden
Not only was that particular victory the first Celtics win against the Spurs in seven years, it was also the Celtics first win in San Antonio since Valentine’s Day 17 years ago. To add insult and injuries (Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins) to that impressive record, the Big Fundamental had remained undefeated in Boston.
Paul Pierce scored 35 points and Ray Allen added 19 points to lead the Celtics past the San Antonio Spurs 98-90, and improve their record to 16-0 against Western Conference teams.
The Truth had a first quarter battle with Spurs Manu Ginobili, scoring 14 points to Ginobili’s 11. Both players were also equally as hot from beyond the arc, converting three-of-four attempts. Pierce put more points on the board than Ginobili, but the Spurs outscored the Celts in the opening frame 20-23.
San Antonio left the House open in the second quarter as Celtics reserve guard Eddie House scored back-to-back three pointers to bring Boston to within three (26-29). House scored 10 points in the quarter and did not miss any of his four field goal attempts.
“I thought the contributions from Eddie (House) in the first half was a big lift for us because we were struggling offensively and we needed points,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers after the game.
The Spurs were up by as many as seven (32-39) with 6:00 remaining in the first half until Ray Allen cut into the lead with a finger roll down the middle.
The Celtics then capped off a 9-2 run with Pierce scoring his 18th point of the game, ending the first half with a 22-footer from the left elbow to give Boston a 43-41 edge.
The usually reliable Rajon Rondo, who finished the game with a team-high 11 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists, controlled the tempo all throughout the third quarter, collecting six assists in the third frame.
Rondo started the third quarter by throwing an alley-oop to Leon Powe, and then had a hand in the next 16 points scored by the Celtics, capped off with a layup and then an assist to Paul Pierce to put Boston up by nine (61-52) with 4:07 remaining in the quarter.
The Spurs then went on a 9-1 run, and pulled within two points with 48 seconds remaining in the quarter when James Posey (five points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals) fired a pass in the trenches to Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Davis scored the basket and drew a foul on Fabricio Oberto. Big Baby missed the free throw, but Boston still had a four point cushion 65-61 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
After a Ginobili turnover, Big Baby, who admitted after the game that playing well against Duncan did a lot for his confidence, returned the favor and kicked the ball out to Posey, who nailed a shot from beyond the arc to make the score 68-61 heading into the final frame.
Pierce, who finished the game connecting on five of his nine attempts from beyond the arc, opened the fourth quarter by scoring his 29th point on a 3-pointer to give Boston its first double-digit lead 71-61.
Tony Allen (10 points, four-for-six from the field) then took over by scoring the next six points for the Celtics, the finale a drive on Ginobili to put Boston up 79-70 with 8:24 remaining in the game.
The Spurs were able to close the gap to two points on three occasions during the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, but Big Baby outmuscled a rebound from the Big Fundamental and scored (85-81 with 3:35); Sugar Ray Allen drove down the lane and scored a layup on Tim Duncan (87-83 with 2:50); and the Celtics hit nine out of ten free throws in the final 1:13 to give Boston the 98-90 victory.
“They brought their energy,” remarked Duncan after the game. “They got some good play from Glen Davis; he was good for them; and of course Paul (Pierce) and Ray (Allen).”
“They kept them close, they made shots when they needed them and they just made plays. Defensively, they were solid too; they are always solid.”
Rajon Rondo and Eddie House combined for 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 13 assists with only two turnovers in 48 minutes. “(Rondo) was terrific,” praised Rivers.
“I mean, Eddie had a nice stretch too. We need that play every night.”
The Celtics outscored the Spurs 18-0 in fast break points. “We could not win this game if the pace slowed down at all,” Doc went on to admit.
“Even to the point with three minutes left, I told them ‘if we got a break, we’re taking it. I want to set it up, I want to run, I want to stay aggressive. We’re not going to win a half-court game against the Spurs.”
The Celtics bench scored 32 points and shot 50% from the field (11-for-22). “I just have to give credit to the whole bench being ready, turning the game around, especially Big Baby (and) House,” told the Truth.
“And Tony Allen really giving us a spark with his defensive presence, and also offensively. I thought he had some huge baskets there in the third quarter that got us a lift.”
Guys are stepping up each and every night,” the Truth continued. “New guys and it’s good for us that our young guys are more than willing to step up and having the chance to do it. It’s going to be really good for us in the long run.”