If losing four straight games was not enough drama for the San Antonio Spurs, they hosted Boston on Thursday night and in typical play of late, wilted in the second half, giving the game to the Celtics, 107-97, extending their losing streak to five.
After enjoying a seven-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers as recently as two weeks ago, the Spurs have apparently discovered the will to lose, and in what could go down as one of the most dramatic implosions at this time of the season in recent NBA history, are now clinging, make that desperately clinging, to a two-and-a-half game lead over the defending champions as the playoffs rapidly approach.
Additionally, their overall lead for home court advantage throughout the playoffs is virtually non-existent, as the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference are streaking, having climbed atop that conference by winning eight of their last ten games and are now within percentage points of the Spurs for the league’s best record.
But we’re jumping the gun here. With the Spurs recent no-defense brand of basketball and an offense centered on living and dying by the three point shot, they could conceivably end up as a number four seed and then be swept in the first round. The scenario is not far-fetched.
Against Boston on Thursday, all of the Spurs starters were together again for the first time in four games, returning from the injured/resting list, and one could have imagined a better performance, yet at the end of one quarter, the Celtics proved they were in town to win, being down by just a bucket, 33-31.
On their home court, the Spurs could muster only a five-point lead early in the second quarter, and by halftime, unable to find a spark, found themselves in a tie game at 47 with the Celtics.
The first-half highlight for the Spurs was point guard Tony Parker, who scored 14 points.
Richard Jefferson opened the second-half scoring, nailing a 3-pointer just seconds into the third quarter, giving the Spurs a 52-49 lead. It would be short-lived, as a layup by Glenn Davis off an offensive rebound gave Boston a 57-54 lead, their largest of the game.
The Spurs had one last push however, before giving up. A 9-0 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Matt Bonner, who shot just 3-of-9 for the night, gave the Spurs a 65-61 lead with just over six minutes to go in the third.
It was San Antonio’s last gasp, and from there on Boston was in total control, going on a 14-0 run that helped them take a 77-70 lead into the final quarter.
San Antonio was on its way to losing back-to-back home games for the first time this season.
The Celtics increased their lead to 11 on a Ray Allen 3-pointer, 89-78, early in the fourth, and while most fans in the AT&T center were expecting some sort of showing by the Spurs in the final frame, it never came.
Forsaking their once-daunted low-post game, the Spurs are still determined to base their offense on the three-point shot, and against Boston hit just 8-of-29 for the game. That glaring stat was compounded by the team’s soft defense, including transition, that allowed the Celtics frequent uncontested shots from outside and more alarmingly, uncontested lay-ups.
Boston shot 63 percent in the fourth quarter, hitting 12-of-19, to bury the Spurs. They had five players score in double figures as they improved to 52-22. Rajon Rondo led Boston as he shredded the Spurs defense with 22 points and 14 assists, with no turnovers.
The schedule remains a challenge for the Spurs, as they boarded their plane after the game and headed to Houston, where they play the second of a back-to-back set against the Rockets on Friday night.
Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown, speaking on Spurs Radio in post-game comments said: “It’s a disappointing loss to a very, very, very good team. We played average basketball against a very good team.”
He emphasized the Spurs are not hitting the panic button, instead being content to downplay the Spurs current state of affairs: “This is a speed bump for us,” Brown added.