Boston: 104.4 points/100 possessions (15th)
San Antonio: 109.1 points/100 possessions (2nd)
Boston: 97.4 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)
San Antonio: 102 points allowed/100 possessions (8th)
Probable San Antonio starters: William Anthony Parker (PG), George Hill (SG), Richard Jefferson (SF), Antonio Keithflen McDyess (PF), Tiago Splitter Beims (C)
View From The Opposing Bench: 48 Minutes of Hell
The last time the Celtics faced the Spurs was my favorite game of the season. It was only three months ago, and yet to read the recap it’s hard to connect that Celtics team with this one. Shaq, Marquis, Von Wafer, and Harangody all played. Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic were chilling in Oklahoma not bothering anyone. Glen Davis took over the game at times. And Rajon Rondo was nothing short of a different player: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 23 assists. That was his last game over 16 assists this season.
Still, like the last four, this is a game the Celtics can win. San Antonio is about as beaten up as Boston is; you just don’t hear about anything that happens there because it’s more important what Bosh, Wade, and LeBron each have to say about Derrick Rose’s MVP candidacy. This game could, could turn out to be a sloppier, shorthanded version of the last one against the Spurs. That would be nice, because Miami’s only one game back in the loss column.
WHAT THE SPURS DO WELL
Shoot three-point basketballs. Because they’re boring and sanctimonious, casual fans tend to think of the Spurs as a defensively-oriented team. But the truth is that they’re an offensive juggernaut thanks to how well they shoot from long range. Between New Hampshire Matt Bonner, Richard Jefferson, Gary Neal, Tony Parker, George Hill, and Manu Ginobili (actually not that great percentage-wise, but pretty amazing considering the kind of shots he takes), this team can go on runs. The C’s have defended shooters better than big men in the last few games, but it remains to be seen how they’ll do against the league’s best-shooting team.
WHAT THE SPURS DO POORLY
Pretend that the stretch run matters to them. In their recent loss to the Blazers, Gregg Popovich sat Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Antonio McDyess. He’s known for benching his stars at the end of the season, and this year in particular he really doesn’t seem to care whether his team hangs on to the top seed, as long as they’re healthy once the playoffs get going. Fans complain about this because it punishes people who buy tickets early and, they argue, demonstrates a lack of competitive intensity. Gregg Popovich does not care. He spells him name with an extra “g” just to upset people. Here’s what he does when he sees somebody crying.
Duncan and Ginobili are both probably out tonight.
PLAYERS WHO MAKE ME WORRY
Dejuan Blair and Tiago Splitter. Check the box scores of the last three losses. The top scorers in all three games were bigs, and in two of them they were scrubby backup bigs (DJ White and Leon Powe). Those two along with Roy Hibbert did most of their damage against Glen Davis. The interior defense is not getting it done. Jermaine O’Neal should improve matters tonight, even by just standing around like he probably will.
Plus Blair has no ACLs and he still kills it on the autotune.
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY
Richard Jefferson. You might still think Richard Jefferson is having a good year. There was a lot of press coverage surrounding his improved three-point shooting at the beginning of the season, and it’s true that he’s inexplicably gotten much better from distance. But all other aspects of his game are still in decline, and his overall stats have dropped marginally from last season when Spurs fans tried to bury him in the desert. Without Ginobili or Duncan, Jefferson will probably see a decent amount of ball tonight, but Pierce’s defense has been tight in recent games and Jefferson’s not that good anyway.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
Rajon Rondo do what he did on January 6, 2010. Jermaine O’Neal do what he did in 2002.
Celtics 92, Spurs 89. Yes!