The national networks probably should have said yes to this one.
Ray Allen hit a clutch 3-pointer and Rajon Rondo obliterated the stat sheet as the Celtics defeated the Spurs, 105-103, at TD Garden tonight. In the battle of the teams with the two best records in the NBA, No. 2 came out on top.
Allen's 3-pointer at the 1:37 mark put the Celtics ahead, 101-96, but the drama didn't end with that shot. With the Celtics leading 105-96 and the game seemingly in hand, the Celtics allowed a three-pointer and then turned the ball over on successive possessions, allowing San Antonio to get within 105-103 with 33 seconds remaining. On the Celtics' next offensive trip, Nate Robinson got a key offensive rebound and Allen was given what seemed like a late Christmas present: two free throws to ice the game.
Allen missed both, and the Spurs called timeout with one more chance to tie or win the game. On San Antonio's ensuing possession, the Celtics forced Manu Ginobili into a difficult shot, with Paul Pierce ultimately deflecting the last-second prayer as time expired.
Enough drama for you?
Despite the missed free throws, Allen had done enough earlier in the game to elevate himself to hero status so long as the Celtics won. He found success curling off double-screens, hitting 13 of 16 shots on his way to a game-high 31 points.
Allen's shooting night was almost as ridiculous as Rondo's stat line: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 22 assists, and 6 steals for the point guard. Glen Davis finished with a career-high 23 points.
The Celtics shot 63 percent in the first quarter on their way to a 27-25 lead. DeJuan Blair started at center for the Spurs, but New Hampshire native Matt Bonner came in for Blair less than two minutes into the game. In the could-not-have-guessed-it department, Bonner led the Spurs in first-half minutes with 18.
Allen led all scorers with 14 first-half points, while Pierce made all four shots he took on his way to 9 points. Despite a brief lineup during the second quarter in which Doc Rivers did not employ a starter, Rondo played a game-high 19 minutes in the first half and recorded 11 assists.
The third quarter belonged to Pierce and Rondo. Rondo had 9 assists in the period to bring his total to 20, while Pierce had 9 points in the third. Not to be outdone, Allen had 9 points of his own as the Celtics maintained 61-percent shooting through three.
The Celtics have tomorrow off before hosting the Raptors Friday night at TD Garden.
Final: Celtics 105, Spurs 103: Fantastic defense by Paul Pierce on Manu Ginobili. Pierce blocks the shot. Game over.
7.4 seconds 4th quarter, Celtics 105-103: Unbelievable. Ray Allen misses both free throws with a chance to ice the game.
33 seconds 4th quarter, Celtics 105-103: This one isn't over. The Celtics have thrown the ball away on two straight trips.
1:37 4th quarter, Celtics 101-96: How many big shots is Ray Allen going to make at the end of games? Just ridiculous. Allen has 29.
3:14 4th quarter, Tied at 96: Jermaine O'Neal just fouled out. He was replaced by Shaq. This is where the Celtics really miss Kevin Garnett.
4:15 4th quarter, Celtics 90-89: Jermaine O'Neal is a walking foul. He just picked up his fifth. Paul Pierce rung up for the technical.
5:37 4th quarter, Celtics 90-87: Rajon Rondo hit two straight long jump shots, but I suspect the Spurs will give him that shot rather than let him drive for the rest of the game.
8:52 4th quarter, Celtics 81-77: Gregg Popovich was just called for a technical foul. Ray Allen was on the bench to start the quarter but is back in now. Rajon Rondo hasn't and likely won't come out.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 77-72: Minus George Hill's buzzer-beater, what a run to end the quarter by the Celtics. Rajon Rondo had an astonishing 9 assists in the third to bring his total to 20. Pierce had 9 points in the quarter, including an emphatic dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.
3:01 3d quarter, Tied at 70: Two things: 1. Gregg Popovich is absolutely ripping into Richard Jefferson after Paul Pierce hit a tying 3-pointer in transition. Pierce wasn't exactly open but got the shot off anyway. 2. Glen Davis is balling. He's got 19 points, second to Ray Allen's 20.
5:23 3d quarter, Spurs 65-63: It's preposterous that the Spurs are letting the Celtics shoot 58 percent and are still winning this game.
8:24 3d quarter, Celtics 59-58: Paul Pierce is getting involved early. He's got 4 quick points to give him 13 for the game.
Halftime, Spurs 51-49: Not a bad half for the Celtics. You've got to figure both coaches will take it. The Celtics definitely need to get Paul Pierce more involved. He's taken four shots and hasn't missed. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo sneaked up on me with 11 assists. Tony Parker had 12 points and just 1 assist in the half.
2:37 2d quarter, Spurs 45-40: The starters are back in for both teams, and that hasn't been good for the Celtics. San Antonio's leading scorer is Bonner with 10.
8:41 2d quarter, Celtics 34-30: Gregg Popovich may have given up on his starters with three minutes remaining in last night's game, but Doc Rivers is sitting his entire starting lineup in the first half. The Celtics have a lineup of Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, Marquis Daniels, Luke Harangody, and Jermaine O'Neal out there. Why not? It's January.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 27-25: Jermaine O'Neal beats the buzzer to give the Celtics the lead after one. The Celtics shot 63 percent in the first quarter, but four Spurs 3-pointers have kept this one close. It's been a feeling-out process so far. As was the case last game, Glen Davis has taken a lot of shots already. He's 3 of 5, while Ray Allen has 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
5:43 1st quarter, Celtics 16-9: Love the little gimmicks the Celtics are running to get Ray Allen open. Allen was bunched up with Pierce and Davis on the left block. He curled, got a screen from Pierce, then another from Davis to get free just long enough to knock down a 10-footer. Allen has 8 points, and so far they've come easily.
8:10 1st quarter, Celtics 12-7: Paul Pierce knocks down a three, forcing a quick timeout by Gregg Popovich. He's not giving his team much rope tonight.
10:21 1st quarter, Celtics 5-2: A quick hook for DeJuan Blair, replaced by New Hampshire's own Matt Bonner. My college roommate went to high school with Bonner. My colleague Chad Finn says Bonner used to come home from the University of Florida and run the shot clock for the men's league he played in. Relevant to this game, Bonner is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range this season.
Pregame: Let's get it.