Stars, studs and duds: No moral victories for Celtics

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BOSTON – The 109-103 loss the Celtics suffered at home to the San Antonio Spurs is difficult to put in the proper perspective. 
 
Teams built for long playoff runs have no time, patience or inclination to take moral victories away from losses regardless of the opponent or other circumstances. 
 
And at the same time, it’s hard to pretend as if the Celtics did not do a lot of good things despite coming up short to the Spurs who have now won eight in a row overall and nine straight on the road. 

 So, where does that put the Celtics’ loss on Friday night?
 
“We are playing better,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I don’t know exactly where to put them on the spectrum on where we ultimately need to be but we’re getting better.”
 
There’s no argument about San Antonio (13-3) being one of the NBA’s elite teams. 
 
And on many levels, the way San Antonio went about fending off a pesky Boston squad serves as a reminder of just how close to perfect a team has to play in order to knock off a perennial power like the Spurs. 
 
“We made mistakes the Spurs capitalized on,” said Isaiah Thomas. “You can’t make the mistakes that we made. With a team like that you can’t have that many mistakes.”
 
He wasn’t speaking just about turnovers, either. 
 
Boston also had a few miscommunications on the floor, with none being bigger than the one that left Patty Mills wide open for a 3-pointer that he knocked down that made it a 107-101 game with 44.1 seconds to play. 
 
After the game, Thomas – the man who was thought to be guarding Mills on that play – explained what happened after the loss. 
 
“I had thought [Marcus] Smart said ‘switch,’” Thomas said. “They capitalized on all our mistakes. That’s why we lost.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday’s game.
 
STARS

Kawhi Leonard
The league MVP candidate was once again getting it done on several levels for the Spurs. He finished with a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds along with four assists and two blocked shots. 
 
Isaiah Thomas
It was yet another big game scoring the ball for Thomas who led the Celtics with 24 points on 9-for21 shooting. He also tallied eight assists with just two turnovers.
 
STUDS
 
Patty Mills

He was a key piece in San Antonio’s second unit, which really titled the game’s momentum in favor of the Spurs. He finished with 19 points off the bench on 6-for-8 shooting.
 
Avery Bradley
Once again he was in double-double range, scoring 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting to go with eight rebounds and three assists.
 
David Lee
The Celtics had to be wondering, “where did THAT David Lee come from?” The former Celtic had a double-double off the Spurs bench, scoring 15 points to go with 12 rebounds in less than 18 minutes of court time. 
 
Al Horford
Horford had another game in which he contributed in several categories, but his all-around game did not have the kind of difference-making impact we had seen recently. He still had a nice game, scoring 12 points on 6-for-13 shooting to go with a team-high 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. 
 
DUDS

Amir Johnson
Big Dog wasn’t doing too much biting on Friday. He was the only Celtic to play more than three minutes who did not score, missing all five of his shot attempts. And while logging 17 minutes, Johnson came away with just two rebounds.

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