San Antonio Spurs (29-5, 10-3 Road) @ Boston Celtics (26-7, 14-2 Home)
Time: 7:30 PM EST, Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
Venue: TD Garden
Officials: Bill Kennedy, Brent Barnaky, and John Goble
TV: CSN-NE, FSN-SA Radio: WEEI
The Line: The Celtics are 2-0, after previously dropping 3-4. The Spurs lost to the Knicks
last night, but have not dropped consecutive games all season. In 08-09 and 09-10 the Celtics
and Spurs split the 2 games they played per season.
According to win/loss records, these two teams, right now, are the two best in the league. The Spurs are 3 games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks in the West, and the Celtics are tied (but ahead in a tie-breaker because of a better win %) for 1st with the
Hate Heat, 3 games up on the Magic. You could not, however, find two teams that took that distinction with less seriousness.
Both the Celtics and the Spurs understand two things: 1) Try to win every game, and 2) Its the games in April, May, and June that really count.
So tonight we have a funny little game, that for all Miami's hype ought to be considered by any real fan as the "Game of the Year" so far. At least the "Game of the Month". However, despite that, if you asked anyone of the leaders on either team (except Shaq, because he just likes to be contrary) they'd say that it is 'just another game'.
But, don't believe that hype. The only acknowledged 'contender' that Boston has beat so far this season is Miami (who they beat twice, which apparently nobody remembers). Boston has dropped games to both Dallas and Orlando, and dropping a game to San Antonio will be a bit of a gut-punch. Yes, Boston has an 'out' in that KG is inured right now, but don't think for a second anyone in the Celtics locker room is approaching tonight's game from that angle. Every guy, to a man, wants this one. Beating San Antonio, the only team that has a better record than Boston right now, would be a great energizer to a team that is at once trying to shake a "January Swan Dive" reputation, overcome injuries, and cement its place on top of the East against a suddenly very real Miami Heat. If you have to beat the best to be the best, Boston has a pretty clear idea of who to go after, and they'll be at TD Garden tonight.
San Antonio on the other hand, despite their dry sense of humor and quite modest determination (they sound oddly British in that context don't they? I bet Tim Duncan has a great British impression), the Spurs want tonight too. They are (or were, before the Knicks game) on course to win 72 games this year, tying the 1996 Chicago Bulls for best regular season record ever. If anyone on their team was named LeBron, Amar^e, Bryant, or Wade, they'd be the biggest story of the year. But, because their leader is Tim Duncan, who has all the apparent emotional complexity of tapioca pudding, and all the ego of a worker honey bee, stories like the reasons behind Tony Parker's divorce from Eva Longoria are bigger news than the fact that San Antonio has not dropped consecutive games all season.
Both teams have their alleged philosophies; they're going to play it cool, and pretend this is just one game out of 82. Don't be fooled though; this one tonight counts just a bit more than all the others. Expect all the starters to play 33-35 minutes or more, and expect it to be an ugly game, because both teams are going to be busting their butts on defense, which will make the offenses look like absolute garbage.
Probable Starting Lineups:
Injuries And Stuff: Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Kevin Garnett (ALL OUT)
San Antonio Spurs
Injuries And Stuff: James Andersen (OUT)
Match-Up Of The Night: Manu Ginobli V Ray Allen
I know, you wanted Tim Duncan involved here somewhere. If Kevin Garnett was playing tonight, Tim Duncan would be listed. 'Isn't Tim more of a threat,' you might ask. Well, yes and no. Tim Duncan has been spectacularly efficient this year, but between Shaq, Jermaine, and Glen Davis (who plays deceptively good D on ol' Timmy), I don't think Tim Duncan will be the demise of these C's tonight. I am much more worried about the Interior defense with Garnett out. Tony Parker is very good, but there are not many guys as slippery and slimy with the ball than Manu Ginobli. Shaq isn't quite fast enough to rotate every time, and Glen Davis doesn't have the height to bother Manu like you would like. Ray Allen will need to make Manu work when Boston has the ball, and try his best to stay in front of Manu when the Spurs are getting into their sets.
PS: What is going to happen when Manu Ginobli and Glen Davis both flop the first time they meet in the paint? Will it be a 'Don't Cross The Streams' moment?
Key To The Game For The Good Guys:
Rebound!..That Basketball!!!- The Celtics got absolutely annihilated on the boards against the T-Wolves. Even if Kevin Love is, as they say, the chosen one, that does not forgive a the entire Celtics frontcourt rotation being out-boarded by one single dude. Kevin Love: 24 rebounds. Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal, BBD, Luke Harangody, combined: 9 rebounds. The Celtics need to change that, and in a hurry. Kevin Garnett had re-established himself as a rebounding force earlier in the season, but without KG the Celtics need to find some way to stop the bleeding..or boarding...whatever.