Spurs Prove Boston Celtics Still Need Elite Talent


It was tough to watch for three quarters. When the San Antonio Spurs arrived in Boston, many believed it was going to be an easy loss for the Celtics. It started off poor, with how the team shot the ball throughout the game. However, when the fourth quarter started, the game became compelling for all who were watching.

The drama that ensued felt almost like a playoff game atmosphere… almost. The Spurs proved to be too much with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge anchoring the offense down the stretch. The final score read 95-87, and there are a few positives to look at with the Boston Celtics. Still, I still think that this game proves how the Celtics are lacking elite talent to win an NBA title.

It was a rough game for the Celtics when looking at the box score. As a team they shot 35 percent from the field, and almost 21 percent from behind the arc. They were not shooting efficiently throughout the entire game. When looking at the roster only two players recorded a positive plus/minus stat during the game (Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk). So it was a game that made many Celtics fan drink to their dismay.

It was especially tough for starters Tyler Zeller and David Lee. I’ve already written about how Zeller couldn’t afford to look poor with an extension on the line. With how bad Zeller has been playing to start the season, that extension looks less likely to happen. Lee has also not prospered like I thought he would, and this game was the tipping point.

For the season so far (only three games), Lee is averaging 5.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. His PER is at 8.09, and has shot 25 percent from the floor. These are horrible numbers that culminated during this game against the Spurs. Zeller and Lee combined two total points, nine rebounds (eight for Lee), and -3 plus/minus. In fact it was so bad that Zeller only played six total minutes. He was getting beat by the likes of Tim Duncan and Aldridge, showing that the Celtics do not have any elite talent in the front court department. That is crucial when trying to build a contender. Teams need that All-Star level forward to help move the team forward.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom when watching the game. While the front court needs a major upheaval, the backcourt the Celtics use looks to be growing better. Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart were two top scorers for the Celtics, and both had some awesome highlight moments. Both are looking phenomenal defensively, with Smart taking the toughest assignment going up against Leonard down the stretch. In fact both guards performed plays that made Leonard look foolish. There is hope that the two guards can continue to progress, and that Smart might turn into the franchise player the Celtics are hoping he is.

The Celtics are still a long way from becoming like the San Antonio Spurs when dealing with talent. Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Smart has been projected to be a star in this league, considering many believed he’d be the first overall pick back in the 2013 draft. He’s been special to watch, especially after seeing the type of hustle he shows every game. There’s fight in him, almost like a pit bull. He’s already gotten in trouble with playing too hard on defense (which includes hitting Matt Bonner’s crotch), but just recently he ran down a loose ball on the floor which lead to a Celtics bucket.

Smart was one of the only bright spots during that game, but watching him grow has been a positive sign. While Bradley still looks like the overall better defender, by the end of the year Smart may overtake that spot. All in all, Smart had a decent game (17 points, 7-15 shootings, two rebounds, three assists, and four steals) against the Spurs. He was involved in both defense and offense, which is a just what Brad Stevens wants to see.

Still the San Antonio Spurs are the class of the Western Conference (even if Golden State are the defending champs). While Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker became the winningest trio in history, it was all about the future stars for this team. The usual suspects let the new stars of the team take over.

Leonard and Aldridge made a terriffic combination that the Celtics couldn’t handle. Jared Sullinger had trouble down the stretch to stop the mid-range game Aldridge uses that has made him one of the most consistent players in the NBA. Twenty four and 14 is just another day for the recently acquired forward, and was causing all kinds of issues for the Celtics front court. It just looked unfair from my point of view.

Plus, Leonard was doing his best Kobe Bryant impression. He was hitting most of the important fourth quarter shots (if Aldridge wasn’t shooting). The Celtics couldn’t keep up with him and it was Leonard’s contributions that really put the game out of reach (that and poor mental mistakes at the end of the game by Boston).

Even after Leonard let Bradley into the paint for a huge dunk, it ultimately didn’t matter in the big picture. The Spurs through the years have drafted and acquired the kind of talent that Boston only dreams to have (and have built a dynasty that has lasted as long as the New England Patriots). In the future, Smart could turn into a Leonard for Boston. It will take some persuasive angling by Danny Ainge to find an Aldridge in free agency to complete the roster.

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After the team’s first win agains the 76ers, the team has been outclassed by better teams. That proves that the Celtics are still a bit away from becoming the type of contenders fans are hoping for. This game does show that Marcus Smart looks like he could become a star in the making if he plays like this. The development he’s made has gone up by leaps and bounds. However, the team needs to do more to have top-tier talent on their roster. The Spurs just showed that the Celtics still are a ways away, but this could mean that the Celtics are on the right track.

C.J Maffris is a writer for Hardwoodhoudini.com. He wants the Celtics to level up after gaining some experience points against the Spurs. Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris