By the Numbers: Defense, Kyrie Irving, Rebounds Help Boston Beat San Antonio

The Celtics handed the Spurs their 3rd straight loss

LaMarcus Aldridge only made 5 of his 13 attempts against the Celtics
First, they lost to the Orlando Magic who dominated the game from beginning to end. Next, came along another stunning defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. Now? The San Antonio Spurs just lost their 3rd straight game, this time losing to Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics on a 108-94 victory by the Celtics. So how did the Celtics do it against the Spurs?  Below are the numbers:

Defense Shut Down San Antonio

To win a basketball game, you have to score more points than your opponents while trying to limit their offensive output. 
Both things were achieved by the Celtics against the free-falling Spurs. Boston, as a team, shot 47% in the field but struggled from long distance as they only made 35% of their shots from outside. 
Defensively, the Celtics successfully shut down the Spurs’ stars as LaMarcus Aldridge scored 11 points but had to take 13 shots and only made 5 of them. Pau Gasol went 4 of 10 from the field for 11 points on his own while Dejounte Murray had 10 points on 5 of 11 shooting. Rudy Gay added 14 markers on 5 of 12 shooting. 
The Spurs  did manage to finish the game on a 41% field goal shooting but we all know that Gregg Poppovich was visibly upset with how the offense of the Spurs faltered especially in the 3rd quarter when the Celtics outscored the Spurs, 26-18. Now that’s how you defend, folks. 

Kyrie Irving’s 24  Points

With the Spurs struggling on offense and equally struggling on defense, Kyrie Irving took advantage and poured in 24 points as he led his new team to another victory against another elite team in the West which improved Boston to 5-2 in the season. Irving was efficient on offense, making 10 of his 16 shot attempts in 30 minutes of action. He also had 6 assists and 3 steals plus a rare block.

54 Rebounds

If you allow a team to grab 54 rebounds against you, don’t expect to win. Especially in the NBA. 
Out of those 54 rebounds that the Celtics grabbed against the Spurs, 15 came from the offensive end. In addition to this, the Celtics had two 2 players finished the game with double-digit rebounding numbers:
  • Jayson Tatum- 11 rebounds
  • Al Horford- 13 rebounds
On the other side, the Spurs, a team who is averaging 49 rebounds per game- 4th in the league, only managed 40 rebounds- 12 from the offensive end. No wonder why the Spurs lost.

Conclusion

It’s still early to tell whether the Boston Celtics have improved since the blockbuster swap between Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas during the off-season. And while it’s rare for the San Antonio Spurs to drop 3 consecutive games, everyone is asking, “What has suddenly hit the Spurs?” Is the absence of Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard finally catching up on the Spurs? 
But one thing is certain: Kyrie Irving is in a better position than his former team, right?  

The Spurs: Still a Threat to GSW

We could see another Spurs-Warriors match-up come the West Finals

Experience plus discipline will help the Spurs this season and beyond
Sure, the Houston Rockets got Chris Paul and will now share the backcourt alongside James Harden. 
The Oklahoma City Thunder received Paul George and will now play alongside reigning MVP, Russell Westbrook. 
Rajon Rondo will now become the New Orleans Pelicans’ top playmaker who will lead the team alongside ever improving Anthony Davis. 
It seems that the rest of the West have been picking up pieces to hopefully challenge the mighty Golden State Warriors. But we’re probably forgetting one team: the San Antonio Spurs. 
Sure, the Warriors swept Kawhi Leonard and company during last season’s Western Conference Finals although many basketball pundits including the one who is writing this article, firmly believed that the outcome of the series would have been different had Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard were healthy and playing during that series. Like it or not, Coach Gregg Popovich and his wards are still the team who can, at the very least, challenge the Warriors of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.
Now, you’re probably scratching your heads and asking yourselves: ‘How can the Spurs beat the Warriors?” 
Let’s run some numbers. 
While the Spurs were averaging 105.3 points per game during the 2016-2017 season, 16th in the league, the Spurs have always been known as a defensive-minded team and last season’s numbers have proven that. In terms of limiting the opponents’ total points in a game, the Spurs only limited their opponents to 98.1 points on the average, the second best in the league in that category. 
Since the Spurs have big men like LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, guys like Danny Green, Manu Ginobili who can block shots, San Antonio, as a team, averaged 5.9 rejections- a spot behind league-leading Warriors in that category. And, don’t forget about the mere fact that Kawhi Leonard, the best two-way player in the league right now, has fully recovered from the injury he sustained during the playoffs.
While there’s doubt that the Warriors are loaded with such firepower as we saw during their impressive postseason run, the Spurs, on the other hand, remain as one of the teams in the league that have the discipline and the respect to the game, to challenge the players of Steve Kerr come the upcoming regular season and eventually, in the playoffs, should they will be pitted against each other. 
For starters, Rudy Gay has signed a 2-year deal with the Spurs and that’s a good addition to a team which has aging stars in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili probably playing their last years in the league. Throughout his career, Gay has been averaging 18 points per game to go along with 5.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Gay will be providing additional firepower that the Spurs will need especially in crucial moments of the game.
The regular season will not come until October which means the Spurs will still have more time to prepare themselves because aside from their goal to hopefully dethrone the Warriors, they will also have to worry about the rest of the West because the other teams in the West have loaded themselves with additional firepower. However, chemistry will play a big role in the success of every team and when we’re talking chemistry, the chemistry that has been established by the Spurs players themselves has proven to be among the best in the league and whenever there’s a good chemistry among players, it helps them perform better on and off the court.