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Rajon Rondo takes it strong to the basket against the Spurs.Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers tip-toed the line of being critical of the officiating in Saturday's 103-88 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, but was clearly unhappy with the lack of whistles in his team's favor while tasting defeat for the second time in 24 hours.
The Spurs were whistled for a mere 12 personal fouls, half of which came over the final 13:16 of play. Boston entered the fourth quarter having shot just four free throws, and finished with eight attempts at the charity stripe overall (the Spurs were 15-of-20 at the line, while Boston was whistled for 20 personal fouls overall).
"Looking at [the box score], I thought it was a miracle going over the game tonight," Rivers told reporters in San Antonio. "Listen, they go into the fourth quarter with six fouls total? That means they are one heck of a defensive basketball team, they were terrific."
When a reporter quipped that Rivers appeared to be dripping with sarcasm, Rivers admitted his frustration.
"It was being sarcastic, but, listen, what can you do? It is what it is," said Rivers. "They shot more free throws. Two of our free throws were [the result of] technicals, so we really didn’t even get that [many]. It’s hard to win games on the road when teams go to the line like that and we don’t go to the line."
Rivers was quick to point out that free throw disparity was far from Boston's lone transgression on this night.
"Our turnovers were a big factor in the game tonight, and then the 3-point line," said Rivers, whose team allowed San Antonio to shoot 12-of-25 (48 percent) beyond the arc. "To me those were the three areas that hurt us: They got a bunch of 3s down the stretch when the game was decided, but I thought the turnovers and the free throws, if you had to put your finger on two things. We were playing hard, too, but we just couldn’t get it. Couldn’t get to the line. The thing that free throws do is they allow you to set your defense. And it allowed them to do it a lot tonight."
The Celtics hung tough for much of the night, erasing as much as a seven-point, first-half deficit to pull even with the Spurs three minutes into the third frame. But that's when San Antonio embarked on a lightning-fast 11-0 run highlighted by a trio of 3-pointers (including two by Danny Green) as the Spurs forced Boston back into catch-up mode. The Celtics didn't go quietly, but the inability to get to the line certainly thwarted their ability to claw back into the game.
Boston certainly had some heavier legs on the second night of a back-to-back, but Rivers wondered if fatigue was becoming too much of an issue, particularly when opposing teams crank the tempo of the game.
"We have to get in a little better shape, because we want to play at that pace," said Rivers. "It was a good pace, the game was a good pace -- it was a fun game to watch. But the difference, I thought, was San Antonio was used to doing that, and continued to do it throughout the game. They were able to sustain their play, and we couldn’t."