December 15, 2016 at 06:13AM / by Scott Polacek via Bleacher Report — Front Page

The San Antonio Spurs have been unstoppable forces on the road this season, but they did some home cooking at the expense of the Boston Celtics on Wednesday with a 108–101 victory.

San Antonio used a strong first quarter and timely responses to every Boston run to control the proceedings. Six different Spurs scored in double figues, led by Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was his typical all-around dominant self with 26 points and six assists, and the Spurs as a whole shot 55 percent from the field with 33 assists on 44 made field goals.

The Spurs moved to 20–5 with the win, although the victory was just their seventh at the AT&T Center. They are an impressive 13–1 on the road and clinched the season sweep over the Celtics after already beating them in Boston on Nov. 25.

Boston has lost three games in a row and fell to 13–12 with the defeat. NBA on ESPN noted it was business as usual for these two teams:

Each side was playing without a critical member, as the Spurs announced LaMarcus Aldridge was out for rest, while the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas is still dealing with a groin injury.

Boston’s offense struggled at times without its go-to guard and shot 44 percent from the field. Avery Bradley led the way with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists on 10-of-16 shooting from the field, while Jae Crowder (15 points), Al Horford (13 points), Terry Rozier (12 points) and Marcus Smart (11 points) chipped in but couldn’t match Bradley’s efficiency at a combined 19-of-49 from the floor.

Leonard had plenty of help from his teammates in the win. Pau Gasol posted a double-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and Tony Parker turned in a formidable fourth quarter on his way to 16 points and seven assists.

Despite the loss, the Celtics jumped out to a quick 11–7 lead, but San Antonio quickly seized control and finished the first quarter on an extended 25–12 run to build a 32–23 advantage. Manu Ginobili (12 points) drilled two straight threes to push a 24–21 lead to 30–21, and San Antonio’s defense forced four Boston turnovers.

Bradley and Leonard paced their respective teams with nine points each in the opening 12 minutes, but Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News felt like Leonard’s Spurs missed some chances to put the Celtics away early:

The Celtics worked a double-digit deficit in the second quarter down to five at 40–35 thanks in part to five quick points off the bench from Kelly Olynyk.

From there, Bradley knifed through the defense for a layup and drilled a three-pointer to tie the game. Bradley and the Celtics were finding favorable looks against San Antonio’s defense during the run thanks to pick-and-roll sets, but Tom Westerholm of MassLive saw a missed opportunity:

Just when it looked like the Celtics would finish the half strong after Crowder converted an and-one for a 43–42 lead, San Antonio controlled the closing stretch of the second.

The Spurs closed the quarter with a 14–4 run and took a 56–47 lead into the half. Threes from Patty Mills and Leonard highlighted the spurt and helped counter 16 points from Bradley and 10 points from Rozier on the other end.

San Antonio continued to extend its advantage in the third quarter and quickly turned a 64–55 lead into a 70–55 one after dunks from David Lee and Leonard. Lee’s dunk came on an impressive dish from Gasol in the half court, while Leonard’s was on an outlet from Gasol in the open floor.

The Spurs reacted to Gasol’s passing abilities:

Boston wouldn’t go down easily and settled in on defense to spearhead an 18–7 run to end the third quarter and trim the deficit to 77–73. It would have been closer, but Gasol drilled a corner three after the Celtics climbed to within a single point.

Mills and the Spurs’ secondary unit started the fourth with a quick 6–0 to push the advantage back to double digits. Boston climbed to within five, but a Parker jumper gave the Spurs a 96–85 lead with less than six minutes remaining.

Parker’s shot came off a Leonard assist after the forward scored in the lane. J.A. Adande of ESPN said “Kawhi taking over” as the Spurs continued to answer Boston’s spurts.

Leonard may have taken over for some time, but Parker carried the offense for a stretch with a layup and assist to a wide-open Gasol. Boston still had one more run with threes from Bradley and Crowder to trim the deficit to 102–93.

Michael Pina of Bleacher Report wasn’t exactly confident Boston would finish the comeback even after pulling to within seven:

Baskets by Leonard and Dewayne Dedmon in the closing stretch put Boston away for good, as the Spurs outscored the Celtics 31–28 in the final quarter.

What’s Next?

The Celtics face the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat in their next two games. It has been an up-and-down start to the campaign for Boston, but it can pick up some momentum against fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders in the coming contests.

The Spurs face the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers in their next five games. They are looking to create further separation between themselves and every Western Conference contender outside of the Golden State Warriors and have a chance to do so with this extended stretch against conference foes.

Originally published on Blogger