It was a bad night for the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks, and despite the Mavs getting crushed by 28 points in LA, I’m not sure that the Spurs’ 10 point loss at home to the Celtics wasn’t the bigger blow of the two.
It was the Spurs’ fifth straight loss, despite Tim Duncan’s return. Manu Ginobili had a terrible night, scoring 9 points with 4-13 shooting from the field. It wasn’t just him. Tim Duncan didn’t get any help down low, and despite his 20-13 night, it felt too little against the never ending rotation of Bigs the Celtics presented.
Above all else it was Rajon Rondo with 22 points and 14 assists. Tony Parker provided a good counter option with 23 points of his own, but wasn’t nearly as effective with his passing. Rondo split the crumbling Spurs defense time after time, feeding Garnett and Pierce (21 & 20 points) and pretty much did whatever he want, especially in the second half.
I still don’t believe that San Antonio will lose their top spot in the West but the team is seriously hurting. When Tim Duncan has to play 33 minutes, you know this isn’t just a team taking some relaxation time before the season ends. At this rate, and most importantly, with an off the mark Manu Ginobili and a big men rotation that’s not working right now, a first round exit wouldn’t be that surprising.
As for the Celtics – nights like these, with three players scoring 20, the defense clicking at the key moments and Rajon Rondo making his case for best point guard in the league, make me believe they’ll take the Bulls and the Heat in the playoffs, home advantage or not.
Meanwhile, in LA – It was a wild night, with 5 players ejected – The Lakers lost Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown while the Mavs lost Jason Terry (probably looking at the longest suspension of the five) and Brendan Haywood. The also got hammered by the Lakers who had each and every one of their key players doing his part –
Bryant scored 28 points, Bynum (18-13), Gasol (20 points) and Odom (16-11) were totally dominant down low an Ron Artest added 13 points. Nowitzki was pretty much alone for the Mavs with his 27 points. The Mavericks didn’t look like a team who could do any serious damage in the playoffs.
Nights like these make me pretty confident that unless the Spurs wake up from this nightmare they’re in, the Lakers are going to have too little resistance on their way to a fourth straight NBA Finals series.