Jan. 5: Celtics -2.5 vs. Spurs.
The Spurs were on the always difficult end of back-to-backs after losing at Madison Square Garden to the Knicks on Tuesday, so 29-5 or not, they were a small underdog in this game in Beantown against the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics.
It was a nip-and-tuck battle as expected but playing for a second straight night is never easy, and Boston backers were hoping that the aging trio of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker would lose their legs at some point in the fourth quarter, leading to a Celtics cover.
That appeared to happen. The game was tied at 96 with a tad over two minutes left. But then the Celtics went on the 9-0 run capped by Ray Allen's layup with 1:06 left. Cover, outright, whatever -- it really didn't matter as both were pretty much in the bag. After all the Celtics weren't laying a handful, it was just a measly two and a hook with basically 60 seconds to play. This thing had to be over and a winner for sure.
But it's the NBA and you're never clear of a dreadful and horrific beat and, wow, was that the case here.
Manu Ginobili nailed a three with 59 seconds to cut Boston lead's to 105-99. But so what? This thing was still over: Six points down on the road, back-to-back, no chance for San Antonio. Well, Tony Parker then stole the ball and scored as this thing all of a sudden turned into a four-point game with 38 seconds to go.
Boston was still very much in the driver's seat as late fouling would have to catch up to the Spurs. But just a few seconds later Ginobili stole the ball from little man Nate Robinson, who then fouled Richard Jefferson. The former Net knocked down both free throws and the "are you kidding me" moment has started to set in. A 7-0 run in about 25 second for the road-weary Spurs to climb back within a basket.
But with 8 seconds to go, Jefferson fouled one of the greatest free-throw shooters of all time in Allen, so once again things looked very good for all of the backers of the men in green as the two-point lead was about to become four and at worst three as the guy never ever could possibly miss both shots.
Even making one would put the Celtics up by three. The Spurs could then hit a three, meaning pretty much at worst overtime was in the cards. Even if the Celtics fouled before the Spurs could attempt a three and put somebody on the line, the shooter will probably intentionally miss the second. That would more than likely lead to a foul and the frontdoor cover. So all appeared to be right in the world as Allen missing both was an impossibility.
Or was it?
Clank and clank!
A 90 percent free-throw shooter just missed both. Yikes, what are the odds of that!?!?!?
Still, the Celtics have a two-point lead, and they can force a miss, they will be fouled and grab the frontdoor cover that way, right?
Wrong. Ginobili's three for the win was blocked by Paul Pierce. The ball floated around a bit and nobody was ever able to get fouled, meaning this game ended Boston 105, San Antonio 103 -- a semi-shocking comeback cover for the visiting Spurs.
Up nine with a minute to go at home and only laying 2.5!?!
And you're beat?