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Celtics Look for Luck of the Irish as they Face Spurs

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Boston Celtics (52-13) at San Antonio Spurs (44-22)
Monday, March 17
8:30 PM ET
Game #66, Road Game #32
TV:  NBA LP ch 756, FSNSW, CSNHD
Radio:  WEEI, Sirius 122
AT&T Center
 
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The Celtics are hoping for a little luck of the Irish as they face San Antonio in a St. Patrick's Day game.  The Spurs have lost 3 in a row on the road and that could make them very dangerous as they look to get back on track.  They also will be looking for payback for the 98-90 loss in Boston.  However, the first game back home after a road trip can be a trap game. 
 
 In the first matchup between these two teams, the Celtics were without KG and the Spurs were without Tony Parker.  Both teams have also added 2 players since then.  The Spurs have added Kurt Thomas and Damon Stoudamire, who had originally wanted to come to Boston.  The Celtics have added Sam Cassell and PJ Brown.
 
It has been 19 years since the Celtics last swept the season series from the Spurs.  The last Celtics' sweep was in the '88-89 season.  Before last season, Tim Duncan had never lost to Boston and Paul Pierce had never beaten the Spurs.  But as improbable as it may seem, the Celtics won in San Antonio last season and stopped that streak. 
 
The Spurs are 27-5 at home and are 21-6 against Eastern Conference teams.  The Celtics are 20-4 against the West.  The Spurs have lost 3 in a row and are 5-5 in their last 10 games.  The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10.  Doc has ties to the Spurs in that he played for them two years and also spent 2 seasons as a color commentator for them. 
 
When the Spurs get down and are struggling, they often resort to dirty play. See last year's playoffs against the Suns for examples of this.  Or, just search YouTube for Bruce Bowen for many more.    I just hope that win or lose, the Celtics come out of this game without any injuries. 
 


Probable Starting Matchups  
PG:  Rajon Rondo vs Tony Parker
SG:  Ray Allen* vs Manu Ginobili
SF:  Paul Pierce vs Bruce Bowen
PF:  Kevin Garnett vs Tim Duncan
C:    Kendrick Perkins vs Kurt Thomas
*If Ray is still out, Tony Allen will probably get the start in his place.
 
Key Matchups
  Vs 
Rajon Rondo vs Tony Parker
Rondo will be facing some of the best point guards in the league on this trip and Parker is going to be a tough cover for him.   Rondo needs to be aggressive and use his speed to beat Parker off the dribble.

  Vs 
Kevin Garnett vs Tim Duncan
This is a matchup of the two premier power forwards in the league.  It should be a battle and a very good matchup. 
 
Honorable Mention
Ray Allen (or Tony Allen) vs Manu Ginobili.  Ginobili has been the Spurs best player this season and either Ray or Tony will have to play great defense to keep him from taking over the game.  
 
Keys to the Game
Hustle and Effort  The Celtics are on the road and facing the reigning World Champions who will be looking to get back on track after 3 losses on the road.  The Celtics will have to bring their "A" game and hustle for loose balls and rebounds.  They can't let the Spurs work harder if they want the win. 

Composure The Spurs are a tough defensive team and in the past the Celtics have struggled against teams that have played them tough defensively.  They need to keep their composure and not allow the defensive pressure to rattle them. 

Move the Ball   Against the Spurs defense, they will have to move the ball to find the open man, or they will be in big trouble. They also have to get the ball inside and not settle for jumpers. 

Defense The Celtics will need to match the Spurs defensive intensity.  They have to play tough defense and crash the boards.  If they give the Spurs in inch they will take a mile.  The Spurs are a good 3 point shooting team and so the Celtics need to guard the perimeter as well as the inside.   

X-Factor
Defensive Intensity
The team that works the hardest on the defensive end will be the team that wins this game.