There’s a reason basketball lasts for 48-minutes, as opposed to one half of 24-minutes.
Take the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, the Spurs were playing the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back and at one point had a 17-point lead in the second quarter on a Celtics team that had two days of rest.
But those “older” Celtics wouldn’t let this be a back-to-back Spurs route as San Antonio had just defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers by 35-points the night before, the Celtics would fight to the end as the Spurs would hold on to win their ninth game in a row 87-86.
It was a tale of two totally different halves as San Antonio used a 14-2 run midway through the first quarter to lead by seven points after one, as Tony Parker led the way with eight points, while Rajon Rondo (17 points, 11 assists) also had eight points for the Celtics.
The Celtics would tie the game early in the second quarter behind Avery Bradley’s 13-points in the quarter, but the Spurs would go on a 19-2 run sparked by Gary Neal (13 points) and Matt Bonner (10 points) to lead by 17 points midway through the second quarter. By the time halftime came, the Spurs looked like they were going to cruise to another offensive onslaught as they lead 59-48 at half. The Spurs lit up the Celtics in the second quarter with 32 points and were shooting 54% from the field, but little did the Spurs know this game would change drastically in the next 24-minutes.
The third quarter was atrocious for the Spurs as the Celtics turned up their defense by forcing the Spurs into four turnovers (17 for the game), holding them to just nine points, and even though the Spurs got some open looks, they shot 4-of-20 in the third quarter. That’s right, a team that scored 32 points the quarter before only scored nine points through 12 minutes of basketball. Though, it’s not like the Celtics were offensive juggernauts either as they only scored 16 points in the quarter, as the Spurs were still holding onto a slim 68-64 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Both teams still struggled to score during the fourth quarter, but with 3:42 remaining in the game, the Celtics erased the Spurs’ once 17-point lead by taking over the lead 81-79.
Both teams would battle back-and-forth and exchange leads, then with three minutes remaining and the Spurs trailing 83-81, Neal hit a huge three pointer to give the Spurs a narrow 84-83 lead. Tim Duncan (10 points, 16 rebounds) would make a big free throw, and Bonner would score the final points for the Spurs with a wacky sequence as he hit a jumper and the Spurs lead 87-83 with 46 seconds remaining.
Ray Allen would score his fifth point of the game in the most crucial situation as he hit a three-pointer from the corner to cut the Spurs’ lead to one point with 39 seconds remaining. The game would end with the Celtics getting one last chance at the win as Paul Pierce (15 points) tried to make a fade-away over Duncan, but the ball wouldn’t go in Pierce’s favor as the Spurs held onto the win.
The Spurs were led by Danny Green’s 14 points, while Parker didn’t have his best night as he only scored two points through the rest of the game. Parker was also taken out with 2:33 left in the game as Neal finished the game at point guard. Bradley led the Celtics with 19-points, eight of those points coming in the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Spurs are now 38-14 on the season, and improve to 17-10 on the road. With the Miami Heat defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-14) on Wednesday night, the Spurs are just one-game behind the Thunder in the standings for first place in the Western Conference with less than 15-games remaining.
The Spurs will have Thursday off before returning home Friday to host the lottery-bound New Orleans Hornets.