Celtics: 107.6 points/100 possessions (11th)
Spurs: 112.4 points/100 possessions (1st)
Celtics: 99.0 points allowed/100 possessions (1st)
Spurs: 103.7 points allowed/100 possessions (9th)
View from the opposing bench: 48 Minutes of Hell
In lieu of our more traditional preview format I have conducted a little Q&A with Timothy Varner of the great great great Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell (to read my responses to his questions along with other great analysis, click here). Sometimes we here at CelticsHub like to offer something a little more substantial for some of the bigger games on the schedule. Tonight’s contest would definitely qualify as such.
Barring any gruesome injury (and that’s no guarantee) tonight’s game will have no bearing on the rest of the season. The Spurs are not in the same division, let alone the same conference. Furthermore, the Spurs are coming off a tough loss to the New York Knicks last night. The Knicks, a much younger team, essentially ran the Spurs starters’ off the court with three minutes to go. The Celtics, not to be outdone, will be without Kevin Garnett. In other words, this game is not even going to serve as an adequate comparison between the Celtics and a top Western Conference team. No one cares how a KG-less Celtics team stacks up against a tired Spurs team.
With all that being said, any time you can go into a game against the team with the best record in the league and have the predicted outcome be a toss up, you have to get a little psyched.
So, without further adieu, here is me asking Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell some (and some not so) pointed questions:
CelticsHub: Last night, the Spurs lost a shootout to the New York Knicks where they were run out of the gym with three minutes to go. One of the Spurs five losses came against the Los Angeles Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back. On the front end of that back-to-back the Spurs played another uptempo in the Golden State Warriors. What impact, if any, will last night’s game have on tonight’s contest?
Timothy Varner/ 48 Minutes of Hell: The Spurs typically play poorly on the second half of back-to-backs. It’s as much mental as it is physical. Obviously, their core is old. Short turnarounds are difficult for old legs. But for years the Spurs have conditioned themselves for the postseason, and killing oneself on a back-to-back doesn’t seem consistent with their we-want-to-peak in May modus operandi. In other words, during some back-to-backs they look tired, and during others they look indifferent.
CH: The Spurs have changed their identity this season from a defense-first team to a box score filling team and have thus far reaped the benefits. What has made the transition so successful for the Spurs when the personnel has remained relatively intact from last season?
TV/48MOH: Oh, this answer is too obvious. I’m sorry. But the main thing is health, and especially the health of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, the two engines that make everything go. It was funny last season to hear people talk about Tony Parker being past his prime. He was 27 at the time. But “past his prime” fit better with the lazy media narrative of slow and old. Parker was slowed by injury, not from his twentysomething tender years.
CH: The inevitable parallels between the Spurs and the Celtics are drawn every season. Both teams are loaded with experience, veterans, and hardware. Both teams have also come out of the gates impressively. Where would a Spurs v. Celtics finals rank and who would win?
TV/48MOH: In my mind, it would rank well above all other potential Finals’ matchups. We’ve never had a Tim Duncan vs. KG Finals, or even a Duncan vs. Shaq Finals. And even though those kinds of dream matchups are, given the late date in their respective careers, more about event promotion than basketball, it would still be fun. Right now, I would take the Celtics because their night-to-night defense is better. It’s more consistent and it’s more intense.
CH: Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker are both having exceptional seasons thus far. Who wins the matchup for tonight? For the season?
TV/48MOH: I don’t know. I think about this a lot. Some nights I think Rondo is the second best point guard in the league. And he’s a defensive game-changer. I would have to give Rondo the edge, but not by much. When Parker is on, he’s a very difficult player to contain. And, despite Rondo’s ability to frustrate his man, it’s more about Parker vs. the Celtics secondary defender than Parker vs. Rondo.
CH: On Monday the Celtics were nearly outrebounded by Minnesota’s Kevin Love alone. The Spurs have three players (Duncan, Blair, and McDyess) that have better offensive and defensive rebounding percentages than any Celtic that will play tomorrow night. Do you expect rebounds to be a huge factor in tonight’s contest?
TV/48MOH: Yes. But the story of San Antonio’s success this season is usually organized around two stats. The first is how well the team shoots from distance. If the Spurs are hitting their threes at a high rate, as they’re capable of doing, they’re nearly impossible to defend. The second is the opponent’s FG%. When the Spurs defend well, it’s not really about them collecting a high number of blocks and steals as it is hard-contesting everything. Running guys off the arc, not missing rotations, putting a hand in every face. Gregg Popovich doesn’t coach to exploit the other team, he coaches for his own team to play well, if you get the distinction. With the Spurs, matchups are never a big storyline. It’s always more about them doing a good job at doing what they do. I suspect this is true of Boston as well.
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Really interesting stuff. I tend to think the Spurs offensive success is more than just being healthy. In the past, these Spurs have been healthy (and younger) and they still weren’t the best offensive team in the league- like they are this year.
I also think Tony Parker is right up there with Rajon Rondo. He is typically the forgotten man in the “best point guard in the league” conversation but if you have watched him this year then you know he has the chops to be in the conversation.
When attempting to predict the outcome of tonight’s game, I consulted Cory Branan and got a “Yes, No, Maybe from the Magic Eightball of your mind, Saw your Mom’s Camaro, dammit girl you lookin’ fine.”
Big mistake. This game can go either way but I am predicting it to go the black and silver way.
Celtics 100, Spurs 105