Make it 18.
The Celtics never quit against the Spurs, but San Antonio extended its winning streak against Boston to 18 games with a 93-89 win. Tim Duncan, drafted by the Spurs in 1997, has never lost to the Celtics.
Duncan led the way for San Antonio with 21 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. The Spurs struggled early but opened up a 50-38 halftime lead and seemed to be on their way to an easy win.
But if the game was over at halftime, someone forgot to tell Delonte West. West (27 points) dove for a loose ball at the 6:08 mark of the third quarter with the Celtics down 21 points. The ball went back to the Spurs, but West’s motor didn’t stop running into the game clock wound down to zero.
West’s play was infectious for the Celtics. The point guard instrumented a fourth-quarter run to bring the Celtics with three points with 2:19 to go in the game. West started the run by cutting the lead to 85-78 on a three-pointer with 3:41 left in the quarter. He hit another three-pointer 40 seconds later, and Al Jefferson swatted a Tim Duncan shot into the stands to give the crowd some life.
A speedy defensive unit of Rajon Rondo, Allan Ray, Ryan Gomes, Jefferson, and West put pressure on the Spurs until the end. West’s three with 30 seconds to go brought the Celtics to within 90-87 and forced Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout.
Following the timeout, Tony Parker drove the lane and was fouled by Jefferson with 14.7 seconds left. Parker missed the first free throw but made the second to make it a two-possession game.
The Celtics inbounded after a timeout and found West for a jumper with eight seconds remaining. The shot cut the lead to two, but Gomes took too long to foul Michael Finley, who calmly drained two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to ice the win.
Celtics fans actually stood and cheered after four-point loss to the favored Spurs. While not cheering the loss itself, the fans in attendance were undoubtedly impressed with the effort of West et. al.
Jefferson led the Celtics with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but Jefferson said before the game he didn’t care if he averaged a double-double for the rest of the season if the team wasn’t winning. Big Al could not be too happy with his team’s loss to the Spurs.