The Celtics complete their 3 game road trip in San Antonio as they take on the San Antonio Spurs. This is undoubtedly the toughest game of the trip. The Celtics have only beaten the Spurs one time in the past 8 years. Their last win in San Antonio was in 2011 and they have dropped 14 of their last 15 games to the Spurs since then. Brad Stevens has never won in San Antonio since taking over at the helm of the Celtics.
The Spurs have pretty much always had the Celtics number, leading the series 44-13 ince 1990. Brad Stevens has only won once against Pop in his tenure with the Celtics and that was in October of 2017 in Boston. The last game between these two teams was a 115-96 win by the Spurs on March 24, 2019. Both teams are coming off a win on Thursday and had Friday off.
The Celtics are 3-1 on the road, with their only loss coming on opening night in Philadelphia. The Spurs are 4-1 at home, losing on November 3 to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics are looking for their 7th straight win while the Spurs are looking for their 2nd win in a row.
The Celtics are mostly back to full health with Enes Kanter as the only player still on the injured list with the knee contusion. He was upgraded to questionable for Thursday’s game but has already been ruled out for this game. Romeo Langford remains with the Maine Red Claws. The Spurs have no injuries reported.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (G League) out
Enes Kanter (knee) out
Two Way Players
(First Red Claws game is tonight at 7pm vs Delaware)
Probable Spurs Starters
PG: DeJounte Murray
SG: Bryn Forbes
SF: DeMar DeRozan
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Trey Lyles
Lonnie Walker IV
Two Way Players
Gordon Hayward vs DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan has had some big games against the Celtics in the past and so the Celtics need to stay with him. He isn’t a threat from deep but is shooting 51.4% from the field. He is leading the Spurs with 20.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 steals. He isn’t known for tough defense so hopefully we will see another big game from Gordon.
Jayson Tatum vs LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge is coming off a 39 point game against OKC and has the length to give the Celtics a problem. In the last game between these two teams, Aldridge had 48 points and 13 rebounds. He is averaging 16.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 blocks. If Jayson struggles to contain him, we may see Marcus Smart guarding him at some point.
Kemba Walker vs Dejounte Murray
Murray is averaging 12.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Kemba is coming off a very emotional game against his former team and will hopefully bounce back with a big game in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games and so the Celtics need to continue to make defense a priority. The Celtics are 3rd with a defensive rating of 100.0 while the Spurs are 16th with a defensive rating of 106.4 Since they are very close on offense with the Celtics scoring 110.3 points per game and the Spurs averaging 111.0 points per game, defense will likely decide the winner of this game.
Rebound - The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball, and they will struggle if they give up second chance points to the Spurs. The Celtics are averaging 47 rebounds per game while the Spurs are averaging 48.8 rebounds per game. Rebounding takes effort and when they put forth the extra effort on the boards, that tends to spread to other areas of the game as well.
Move the Ball - When the Celtics move the ball they play very well. When the ball stops moving, the Celtics struggle to score and the rest of their game slows down as well. They need to keep moving the ball and make the extra pass to find the best shot. They have to play team ball.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to play hard and be the more aggressive team. They have to go after rebounds, loose balls, and 50/50 balls. They have to be aggressive on defense and in getting to the basket. They have to be the team that works harder and wants it more.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have yet to put together a game where they play well for 48 minutes. They are getting better starts but still seem to bog down at times. They need to come out strong and play hard until the final buzzer. They will need consistent effort from start to finish if they want to beat the Spurs.
Road Game - The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 3 game road trip. The AT&T Center is a very tough place to play. The Celtics have to block out all distractions and focus on playing their game. The Celtics, especially the young players, have to dig deep down and keep their focus.
Coaching - Gregg Popovich is considered by many to be the best coach in the league. Brad Stevens is considered to be the best young coach in the league and the heir apparent to Popovich’s crown. Matchups and coaching strategy should come into play in this game. Will master or pupil come out on top?
Officiating - Officiating is always an X-Factor. Every crew officiates differently and teams need to adjust to the way the game is called. Marcus Smart was fined for complaining about the officiating against the Hornets and that could either cause a backlash from the refs or maybe better officiating. It’s a toss up. Hopefully we get fair officiating and they let them play.