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Spurs 94, Celtics 73

Spurs administer a Celtic thrashing

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 29, 2010

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In some ways, it was like watching the Celtics meet their mirror image.

The personnel was different.

Some of the philosophies were different.

But the goals were the same, and so were the teams.

The Spurs were playing their best basketball of the season (9-4 in March coming in), and so were the Celtics (11-4), but San Antonio was the team forcing its style of play.

“They did a lot of things to us that we want to always do, that we always talk about doing,’’ Ray Allen said, after the Spurs handed the Celtics a 94-73 loss, their worst of the season. “Just the quick ball movement. Nobody holds the ball. No hesitation, you just make the quick play.’’

The Spurs held the Celtics to a season-low point total, suffocating them in a decisive third quarter when they held them to 29.4 percent shooting (5 of 17). Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 18 points, but he got the bulk of them from the line, going 10 of 11 from the stripe to offset a 4-for-11 shooting night.

Meanwhile, Manu Ginobili was a menace, going for a game-high 28 points along with 7 assists and 3 rebounds. Richard Jefferson put up 16 points and 11 rebounds, and the Spurs won ugly (43.6 percent from the field, 26.1 percent from 3-point range) by making the Celtics look worse (37 per cent from the floor, 7.1 percent from the arc).

“They were driving, being more of the aggressor, and had us on our heels pretty much all of the second half,’’ Pierce said. “Like I said, they made the extra-effort plays tonight that we usually make. The team that you saw, San Antonio, the way they played is usually the way we play and we just got an old-fashioned whupping.’’

Added Allen, “They attacked us at what we wanted to do and we didn’t attack back.’’

San Antonio essentially roped off the paint, rendering Rajon Rondo — a world-beater with 18 assists Friday night against Sacramento — almost powerless (6 points, 7 assists, 4 turnovers).

It was Ginobili’s job to keep Rondo under wraps, but he spent most of his night roaming, leaving Rondo to cause trouble — grabbing 50-50 balls, jumping in to deal hard fouls to Kevin Garnett and Pierce, and basically wreaking havoc.

“A couple times he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar,’’ Allen said. “But it just made it tougher. It was forcing us away and we couldn’t make shots.’’

In the second quarter, Garnett made a hard drive to the rim, but was met by two Spurs, including Ginobili, who aggressively but cleanly knocked him to the parquet. Garnett stayed on his back, taking a deep breath, gathering himself. When he stood up, he played to the crowd, beating his chest to ignore the pain.

In the third quarter, Pierce took a Ginobili elbow to his right shoulder. He hit the floor, rolling in pain, although he got up and made one of his two free throws.

The Spurs snapped the Celtics’ five-game home winning streak, avenging a loss to the Celtics in San Antonio Dec. 3, which they remember vividly.

“That was the worst we had been probably, last time we played them,’’ Ginobili said. “Now we are kind of looking better, looking like a team at least. We are playing hard, hustling, communicating, all that. We are still making a lot of mistakes [and] that’s part of the whole deal, but when you look at our faces going to the bench with subs and stuff it is totally different, so I am glad to see that.’’

The Celtics are in the middle of a six-game homestand, with Oklahoma City, Houston, and Cleveland on tap. Having gained a sense of consistency in the past month, they didn’t view last night’s loss as a momentum-killer, but more as a throwaway.

“You trip up a little bit here, but what we’re doing, the mission that we’re on doesn’t change,’’ said Allen.

Or as Rondo succinctly put it, “Scratch this one.’’

Just as the Spurs are a title contender finding their way, the Celtics feel they are on the same path.

“They’re a veteran team,’’ said Rasheed Wallace, who scored 7 points and grabbed eight rebounds starting in place of Kendrick Perkins (left knee). “They’re a championship-caliber team just as I feel we are. They don’t try to do too much, just make the simple basketball play and that’s what gets it over the highlight play every time.’’

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