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Celtics and Spurs Clash at the Garden

Boston Celtics (47 - 25) vs. San Antonio Spurs (43-28)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

8:00pm

TV: Comcast SportsNet, ESPN; Radio: WEEI

Venue: TD Garden

Game Thread [] Chat Room

The Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs square off at the Garden tonight at 8:00pm.

The Celtics have won five straight home games, including the first two of this current six-game homestand. The Spurs, meanwhile, have gone just 3-3 in their last six games, but are coming off a 102-97 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

San Antonio is still playing without All-Star point guard Tony Parker, who suffered a broken hand against the Memphis Grizzlies back on March 6. His absence has certainly factored into the Spurs' up-and-down play of late, but as evidenced by their win over Cleveland, they're still more than capable of tackling the league's best teams.

Tim Duncan is still Tim Duncan, despite him slowing slightly with age. His 18.2 points per game average, along with his 10.2 rebounds per game mark still make him one of the league's best big men, and it will be enjoyable watching him go toe-to-toe with Kevin Garnett tonight. Duncan recorded just four rebounds in the Spurs' recent win over Cleveland, but do not be fooled. On two occasions this season, Duncan has hauled in 26+ rebounds by himself. He ripped off 27 boards in a win over the Hawks back on January 27, and 26 rebounds in a win over the Pacers on February 17. Those are legitimate 'Wow' stats.

Besides Duncan, the Spurs still have very capable players in Richard Jefferson, Manu Ginobili (30 points against the Cavaliers), and Antonio McDyess. Duncan and McDyess can both stretch the defense with a 15-foot jump shot, but McDyess still holds a slight edge in overall versatility, meaning Rasheed Wallace, who should start over Kendrick Perkins (knee tendinitis), should be matched up with him.

The Celtics' bench will also have to handle DeJuan Blair - the rookie rebounding sensation, who has thus far proven to be one of the steals of last summer's NBA draft. He's averaging just over seven points and six rebounds per game, but when the Celtics knocked off the Spurs, 90-83, back on December 3, Blair scored 18 points and grabbed 11 boards, helping to spark a late San Antonio rally.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace

Spurs: George Hill, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess

Health Check: For the Celtics, both center Kendrick Perkins (knee) and guard Nate Robinson (ankle), are listed as questionable.

For the Spurs, point guard Tony Parker (hand) is out.

Keep It In Mind: Michael Finley wants to 'destroy' the Spurs tonight.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, the 'Big Three' combined for 60 points against the Kings on Friday.

For the Spurs, Manu Ginobili poured in 30 points against the Cavaliers on Friday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Michael Finley was held scoreless in 11 minutes of action against Sacramento.

For the Spurs, Matt Bonner scored just two points in nearly 20 minutes against the Cavs.

Key Matchup: Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan

Honorable Mention: Rajon Rondo vs. George Hill

Skinny: Despite Tony Parker being out and the Spurs aging nearly as quickly as the Celtics, they are still a very skilled team, perfectly capable of handing the Celtics a loss at home tonight. The obvious suspects will have to be slowed: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Richard Jefferson. However, keep an eye on Rajon Rondo's matchup with George Hill. Hill's quick, and has played with respectable poise in Parker's absence. He's averaged over 15 points and 4 assists in the month of March so far, so Rondo could have his hands full.

The Spurs are averaging over 101 points per game for the season, and are allowing a shade over 96 on the other end. Not to sound like a broken record, but Boston's defense will need to be on point tonight, and the C's will also need to pay attention on the boards, as San Antonio ranks 11th in the NBA in rebounds per game, with just over 42 per contest. When the C's play the defense they're capable of playing, they can pretty much beat any other team in the league. It's when they get lackadaisical in that area that they begin to run into trouble. Here's hoping they can continue to re-establish a defensive tone against a very capable San Antonio Spurs team tonight.