Basketball is a game of runs – which is the greatest cliché you’ll ever hear in describing the sport but when the scoring well ran dry on one end for the Boston Celtics, the team’s dire focus turned to the other, and that’s where they couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Facing the San Antonio Spurs, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens turned to drastic measures for his team to find a game-defining run of its own Wednesday night. A 27-6 Spurs run has an effective way of doing that to an NBA head coach.
The Spurs’ 23-point swing to end the second frame turned a nine-point deficit into a 14-point (61-47) lead at the half. They outscored the Celtics 37-21 throughout the second quarter.
Brad Stevens On The Celtics’ Poor Defense: ‘It’s Too Easy, We Just Need To Get Better At That’
And even after Boston responded with its offensive punch of the night in the second half, Stevens says his team’s effort on the defensive end of the floor wavered, thus explaining why San Antonio converted high-percentage shots time and time again. They capped off a hard-fought 110-106 win.
“They just had their way at the rim,” Stevens said after the game. “27-of-33 in the paint, that means it’s too open. That means it’s too easy. We just need to get better at that. The zone helped us, it got us back into the game but we were going zone out of necessity because we couldn’t stop the nosebleed.”
In the second half, Boston strayed from its man-to-man defense and turned to a zone, in an effort to regain offensive momentum. With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum leading the way, the Celtics topped the Spurs 37-21 in the third quarter.
Brown (14) and Tatum (8) combined for 22 of the Celtics’ 37 third-quarter points; outscoring the Spurs (21) and leading Boston to a two-point lead (84-84) at the start of the final frame. Stevens stuck with the zone defense and turned to his bench unit along with Kemba Walker.
But that’s when the momentum shifted. After the Celtics went 1-of-9, the Spurs capitalized with that cliché run that San Antonio never seemed to run out of.
Brad Stevens On Celtics Playing Multiple Defenses: ‘You Have To Do One Well And We’re Just Not’
This time it was an 11-2 run. Stevens, who isn’t opposed to switching his defenses throughout the course of a game, says even when the zone defense seemed to work, he wasn’t impressed with his team’s defense, at all.
“I’d like to be able to play multiple defenses and multiple defenses well,” Stevens said. “But to be able to do that, I think you have to do one well and we’re just not. We’ve talked about it, we’ve got a lot of work to do. And I think that’s something that if we’re gonna play small, we’re gonna play big, whatever we play, we’ve got to defend at a high level to have a chance to win because we’re going to have our droughts just like everybody does.”
After a rare three-day rest, the Celtics defense will get its greatest test of the season, thus far – a showdown against the champion Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden, Saturday night.