SAN ANTONIO — Kyrie Irving thought it was “cash, money.” But, the Celtics point guard got shortchanged.
Irving’s 3-point attempt rimmed out as time expired and the Celtics fell, 105-102, to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday at AT&T Center.
“I thought it was cash, money that it was going to hit the bottom of the net,” Irving said. “Obviously, I didn’t put enough on it, but it was a good play call and it just happens.
“I am going to probably replay it for about 33 more minutes and then I am going to be over it.”
Manu Ginobili didn’t have such problems. The 40-year-old veteran drained a 3-pointer with five seconds left to put the pressure back on the Celtics in the closing seconds. And it wasn’t even the only time he did it in the game.
After the Celtics (22-5) last-ditch attempt of the first half went awry with an errant full-court pass, Ginobili let it fly. The veteran hit a turn-around, fall-down 3-pointer as time expired in the half, to put the Spurs up 56-55.
“Manu, like he told me a lot of years ago, ‘This is what I do,’ ” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s amazing. He loves those moments and he’s come through an awful lot and he did it gain tonight at age 40.”
Jaylen Brown and Irving discussed Ginobili’s penchant for the theatrics — and how he does it at an advanced age — over breakfast Friday.
“He is a vet and plays like that are tough to swallow,” Brown said. “We were saying he was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in our opinion and he displayed that tonight. When his team needed two big shots, he knocked them down. He has been playing basketball as long as I have been alive. That is a testament to him.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before Friday’s game that Ginobili was one of the best players at the end of quarters he has ever seen. Now, he said he wishes he had never said it.
“We did a great job of guarding it. Al [Horford] went out and challenged high and Jayson [Tatum] pushed him over the screen and Al challenged that, too. Hat tip to Ginobili because it was great defense,” Stevens said.
Ginobili’s shots overshadowed Irving’s stellar effort. In his last game wearing a protective face mask, he continued his hot shooting, scoring 36 points on 13-of-21 shooting. It was the first time the Spurs (18-8) have given up 30-plus points this season.
The Celtics opened the game on an 11-0 run and an Irving 3, pushed the Boston lead to 14-2 midway through the first quarter. But, the Spurs did what the Spurs do — stay consistent and never go away. After trailing by as much as 12 in the first quarter, San Antonio slowly crept back in the game, mostly to the work of LaMarcus Aldridge inside, who scored 19 in the first half and finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Terry Rozier came off the bench and added 23 key minutes and 13 points for Boston. Tatum added 20 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Aron Baynes left the game in the third quarter after getting hit in the stomach and did not return. And after missing Wednesday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, Brown returned, sported new black goggles and scored 15 points.
“It was a little uncomfortable and it took a while to get adjusted [to the goggles],” Brown said. “But I can see better than with the contacts. Everything is so much clearer . . . It is like 3D on my eyes.”
Despite the strong performances, Stevens said his team just has too many wasted possessions.
“Multiple times throughout the game they were in a rhythm scoring and we just couldn’t break it,” he said. “That was the difference in the game. Obviously, we started off shooting the ball well, but in the first half they really dominated, and I felt we were fortunate to only be down 1 at half time and it was too back and forth. We have to be able to get some stops.”
Late in the third quarter, Irving drained a 3 and Brown came up with two huge slam dunks as the Celtics took an 82-77 lead. It just didn’t stick as the Spurs had a 7-0 run to start the fourth.
“It is always good when it goes back and forth, but it always comes down to what team is going to get the final stop and Manu hits two big bombs,” Irving said. “The 40-year-old is still impressing everybody.”