THE NITTY GRITTY
Boston bounced back with a little extra spunk after Tuesday's dismantling in Houston and hung with one of the league's elite for 2 ½ quarters. Moral victory achieved. The Spurs dominated much of the second half, but coach Brad Stevens can find a silver lining in his team's competitiveness. Jared Sullinger, making his first start of the season as Boston tweaked its first-unit frontcourt, had a double-double by halftime and finished with a team-high 19 points and 17 rebounds over 31:24. Avery Bradley continued to fire away and matched that output with 19 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Both Jeff Green (19 points) and Jordan Crawford (12) also finished in double figures, but Boston's bench combined for a mere 16 points. Tony Parker paced San Antonio with a team-high 19 points, while Tiago Splitter added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Spurs owned a one-possession lead midway through the third quarter, but an 8-0 burst that culminated with a Parker layup put the Spurs out front by double digits (71-60). Boston never got closer than seven the rest of the way, though a late surge trimmed the deficit to single digits in the final minutes after San Antonio pushed its lead as high as 19 in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics generated only four points off 12 San Antonio turnovers, while the Spurs shaped 17 Boston turnovers into 25 points. ... Boston actually won the battle on the glass (44-41). ... The Celtics led by seven in the first half. ... Vitor Faverani played only 2:05 in a bench role, while Kris Humphries got a five-minute burst in the second half. ... Keith Bogans did not dress due to illness. ... MarShon Brooks was the only player active who did not play.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (4-9) have now lost five in a row and limp a bit back to Boston after a tough three-game road trip. There's no time to lick their wounds. A visit from the East-leading Indiana Pacers looms on Friday to open a back-to-back that closes the next night in Atlanta.