Brash And Bullish Defeat Dull And Efficient: Celtics vs. Spurs Stuff

The C’s did a nice job keeping Parker out of the paint with just a few exceptions. Specifically, they designed their defense to keep him out of the middle of the paint. Watch how Rondo defended Parker whenever Tony got the ball on the wing, and you’ll see him open up his stance to give Parker the baseline. When the Spurs ran their high screen/rolls for Parker, the C’s had the screener’s man slide across the foul line to try and prevent penetration.

The result? Parker got some nice looks from the elbows and missed most of them. You’ll live with that. Because if he gets in the paint, it opens up San Antonio’s three-point game. And that’s where they kill you.

via Fun Times at The Alamo: C’s 90, Spurs 83 » Boston Celtics Basketball – Celtics news, rumors and analysis – CelticsHub.com.

A great point among a great set of points over at the CHub. Parker finished with 17 on 15 shots. Got himself 7 assists, but you can live with that given how things turned out.  In a fun game of “Is plus/minus useful at all in a single game environment?”, Parker was -9 while Roger Mason Jr., who absolutely murdered the Spurs down the stretch with poor play at both ends, including the single worst shot I’ve seen a Spur take in two years (PUJIT 3 down four), was +1. Hmm.

And the Spurs? Where the hell was Manu while RMJ was jackin La-Z, jackin La-Z? 48MoH?

Manu Ginobili played 18 minutes of mediocre basketball against the Celtics ; he didn’t play at all during the Spurs’ 4th quarter comeback attempt, unless you count the few possessions of desperation three point heaves in the final minute. He shot 4-12 in the game and was part of the third quarter defensive break down that led to Rasheed Wallace’s buzzer beating three. From one perspective, it seemed like Gregg Popovich benched–gasp!–Manu Ginobili during the game’s most important stretch.

Upon closer examination, it’s difficult to make this case. After the game, Popovich indicated that Ginobili’s minutes were intentionally limited as the team works him back into shape after his most recent injury, a gimpy hamstring. Ginobili played 18 minutes against the Celtics, but he had only played 17 against the 76ers just 4 nights before.

via Boston 90, San Antonio 83 | 48 Minutes of Hell.

This game was bizarre. A team that should be excellent at rebounding, the Celtics (what with KG and Perk and Rondo and Quisy and Sheed) were blasted on the boards. And a team that should be great at not turning the ball over, the Spurs (what with Parker and Hill and Duncan and Manu and you know, the Spurs) were sloppy as all get out.

For the Celtics, the strongest thing is Kevin Garnett’s bounce-back to full form. That’s the best I’ve seen him since Game 6 of the 08 Finals. As I noted last night, KG’s second in makes per 40 minutes for power forwards playing 25 minutes a game from 16-23 feet. He’s at 46% as of Monday, and will probably go up after last night’s performance. When they went out to cover him there, he slipped low and hit lob passes (actual jumping!). The defense was there, the effort was there, the unnecessary yelling and pounding of the chest were there (seriously, man, you can do it, just not. EVERY. PLAY.). That was El Tigre Monstruoso, and he scarred the Spurs with what he did, on a night where the Truth was off. CelticsBlog agrees:

I credit the noticeable difference in the defense lately to a noticeable difference in the play of Garnett. Clearly the parallels between Garnett’s energy and the aggressiveness of the defense are legitimate and we’ve seen more and more signs that the classic, bursting-with-energy KG is about to make a reappearance. He had another one of his moments with 1:40 to go in the third frame when Rondo threw up a lob pass, which KG caught in midair between two defenders and put it in off the glass. The emotion that followed after when he realized it went in is the sure fire sign he’s feeling good again. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that as Garnett continues to work his way back to 100 percent, so does this team’s defense.

via Celtics Winning With Defense and Trust – CelticsBlog.

So if you want to go the cliche oversimplification route (AKA the traditional sportswriter model): “KG played terrific and the Celtics won due to forcing a good team into turnovers and because the Celtics trusted their teammates.” Happily ever after. Let’s talk Blair.

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Ooooookay. Here was the draft night momentum. We all expected him to fall. And he did. Plummeted. I figured late first round, on account of just one of those things. When he hit the second round, though, I was concerned.

Look, this site has mocked GMs for bad decisions as much as anyone. We’ve questioned scouting reports, GM calls, coaching decisions and everything else when we have no idea what information those people were getting. Those are isolated incidents.  But for me, 29 other teams, 29 other teams passing on Blair was a pretty good sign that there was something significant up. It’s kind of the opposite line of thinking that says “individual persons are intelligent, people are stupid.” Instead, I believe “Individual GMs are morons, but the league as a whole makes smart decisions.” But this is one of those exceptions, clearly.

I saw the preseason stuff and said “Let’s all just slow down. It’s preseason.” But last night sold me. And it speaks not only to Blair’s ability and Buford’s smarts in taking a chance on him, but Pop’s ability to take a player outside of his wheelhouse and make him effective. The Spurs play a disciplined, efficient, breezy brand of basketball. It may be considered boring, but it’s not brutish. It’s refined. However, Blair is playing a streetball brand of basketball. “Go up, grab ball, go up, put ball in basket.” There’s nothing fancy about it. He’s operating in a very simple framework, but Pop’s put him in a position to be insanely effective. For years we saw players like Fabricio Oberto get tons of baskets off cleanup work because of the attention Duncan draws. Well now Blair’s getting it, and he’s actually a good player.

There’s talk of his knee exploding in three years but that seems insane to me. You wouldn’t have though Livingston’s was going to asplode, nor would you have thought Amare’s eye was going to be problematic. Z’s foot broke twice and he came back. I get the injury-concern. But I think for right now you have to act like it’s not a concern. Anything else is making too many assumptions in the face of hard evidence. You know, the hard evidence which is dunking on you.

Blair may have gotten on the boat in preseason and seen the shore in the first few games. He arrived last night.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.