HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers laid his frustration at the feet of the referees.
“It’s hard to win games on the road when a team goes to the line like that and we don’t go to the line,” said Rivers, unhappy with the San Antonio Spurs’ lopsided free-throw differential, 20 to the Celtics’ eight.
Kevin Garnett piled on the refs, too, only blaming the Spurs’ AT&T Center as being one tough place to play and, therefore, to get a call.
“These guys [the Spurs] are a well-oiled machine. This place is one hard place to play in,” Garnett said Saturday night after the Spurs added to the Celtics’ misery with a 103-88 victory. “You are not going to get many calls in here to begin with. It’s your team versus whoever else is in here. We did have some fans in the stands but when you come here it is a tough place to play.”
OK, but that would not explain the Celtics’ stunning success in San Antonio over the years. Boston had won the last five meetings in South Texas going back to the Spurs’ last home win against the Celtics on Dec. 9, 2005, back when San Antonio had only half of its eventual four championship banners hanging in the rafters.
The Spurs and Celtics are often compared as mirror images from different conferences because of their aging stars. Both teams advanced to their respective conference’s final playoff round last season, but San Antonio, bolstered by a youthful, sharpshooting supporting case, is again rolling at 19-6 with an impressive point-differential of plus-7.8.
The Celtics woke up this morning out of the Eastern Conference playoff mix at 12-11, with a concerning minus-0.5 point-differential.
San Antonio, a terrific 3-point shooting team, killed Boston from beyond the arc, hitting 12-of-25. In Friday’s loss at Houston, the Rockets drained 10-of-27. Defending the 3-point shot has been a recurring issue for these Celtics, ranking in the bottom half of the league.
Boston reached its high-water mark for the season at 12-9 at home last week when it barely held on at home to beat a mediocre Dallas team in overtime. Then came the two road losses at Houston and San Antonio to drop Boston to an unaccustomed 4-7 on the road.
Next up is a four-game stretch against East foes, culminating on Christmas Day at struggling Brooklyn.
Getting back to East play might seem like a good thing. Only the Celtics are 7-8 against its own conference, which is clearly the weaker of the two.
Boston has passed the quarter point of its season. Those sunny preseason forecasts for another East finals run to challenge the Miami Heat are shrouded by low-hanging clouds.