Monday, December 5, 2022

Preview: Boston Celtics (10-9) at San Antonio Spurs (4-13)

The Boston Celtics will look for answers to their sudden shooting woes and to get back on the winning track when they travel to San Antonio on Friday to square off against the reeling Spurs.

The Celtics head to the Alamo City after a 123-104 loss at home to Brooklyn on Wednesday that snapped a three-game winning streak.

The Nets opened the second half with an 18-3 run to lead 80-52. Boston wouldn’t get closer than 12 points the rest of the way. The Celtics shot 37.4 percent (34-for-91) from the floor and just 22.9 percent (11-for-48) from 3-point range.

“I felt like it was the first time in a while that we got outhustled and outworked,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “(Brooklyn) came out playing harder than us from the start, and then you compound it with the missed shots. It’s obviously a different game when you’re making shots.”

Marcus Smart finished with 20 points and eight assists to pace short-handed Boston, who was without center Robert Williams III and guard Josh Richardson, who both missed the game with non-COVID illnesses.

Boston’s leading scorer, Jayson Tatum, made just 4 of 16 shots to wind up with 15 points, and Jaylen Brown scored 13 points after being a game-time decision due to injury management. Dennis Schroder added 10 points for Boston.

“Definitely, Brooklyn came out the more aggressive team,” Boston center All Horford said. “We gave them a little too much respect, in my opinion. They are what they are, they’re a good team. But it’s a learning experience for our group, and I know that we’ll be better next time.”

The Spurs continue a four-game homestand after dropping the first two contests, most recently a 124-106 setback against Atlanta on Wednesday. Bryn Forbes led San Antonio with 23 points while Dejounte Murray added 22 points (13 of those in the first quarter), 11 assists and 8 rebounds.

San Antonio led for much of the first period Wednesday and trailed by seven at the half but was ultimately done in by an early third-quarter run by the Hawks and balky team defense.

“Our defense let us down,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich explained afterward. “We were pretty poor defensively, and the Hawks executed. They got everything they wanted. Our individual team defense was poor tonight. They took advantage of it.”

Jakob Poeltl and Keldon Johnson scored 15 points each for the Spurs, and Poeltl also grabbed 10 rebounds for San Antonio, which has lost six straight games.

Johnson said the lack of communication on the defensive end doomed the Spurs.

“We had spurts on defense, but that won’t win a basketball game,” Johnson said. “That’s not how it works in the NBA. Especially with our team, you got to be locked in at all times. When we’re locked in on defense, and we put defense first, good things happen for us.”

San Antonio is 4-13, its worst start since the 1996-97 season. But Johnson said the Spurs can correct their mistakes and turn things around.

“This is what we love to do,” Johnson said. “Can’t win every game. Can’t lose every game. We’re going out there to compete every night and try to get better. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s things that we can correct and get better at.”

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