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Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Boston Celtics Game #35

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The San Antonio Spurs visit the Celtics for the 2nd and final game between them this season.

Boston Celtics v San Antonio Spurss Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics return home and try to regroup after losing to a depleted Wizards team. Waiting for them are the Spurs, who are coming off a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics won 135-115 in San Antonio on November 9. This is the first game of a 4 game road trip for the Spurs.

The Celtics are playing in the 4th game in six days. They are also playing the first of back to back games. They will complete the back to back set in Philadelphia on Thursday. The Celtics are 3-2 in the first of back to back games this season. They are 2-0 on the first night when the games are home/road. Both of these teams last played on Monday.

The Celtics are 2nd in the East. The Spurs are 8th in the West. The Celtics are 14-2 at home while the Spurs are 4-11 on the road. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Spurs are 5-5 in their last 10. The Celtics are 7-3 vs Western Conference teams. The Spurs are 6-8 vs Eastern Conference teams. The Spurs are looking for their 2nd straight win while the Celtics are looking to bounce back from their loss to the Wizards. The Celtics are 14-2 against teams under .500.

Kemba walker has missed the last 3 games with the flu. He has been upgraded to questionable but Brad Stevens said he plans to play but will have a minutes restriction. Daniel Theis developed a sore knee in Monday’s game. He is listed as questionable for this game and will be a game time decision. If Theis can’t play, I expect Enes Kanter to start in his place and it’s also possible that Tacko Fall has been called up from the Red Claws.

Robert Williams’ scan on his hip came out good and Williams had been upgraded to questionable but he is still out for this game. Romeo Langford missed Monday’s game with the flu and is listed as out for this game. Vincent Poirier remains out with the finger injury. The Spurs list no injuries but Keldon Johnson, Chimezie Metu, and Luka Samanic are all on assignment with the G-League.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis (if available)

Celtics Reserves
Carsen Edwards
Javonte Green
Semi Ojeleye
Enes Kanter
Marcus Smart
Brad Wanamaker
Grant Williams
Tremont Waters
Tacko Fall

Injuries/NWT
Romeo Langford (illness) out
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Vincent Poirier (finger) out
Kemba Walker (illness) probable
Daniel Theis (knee) questionable

Two Way Players
Tremont Waters
Tacko Fall

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Spurs Starters

PG: DeJounte Murray
SG: Bryn Forbes
SF: DeMar DeRozan
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Trey Lyles

Spurs Reserves
Marco Bellinelli
DeMarre Carroll
Rudy Gay
Keldon Johnson
Chimezie Metu
Patty Mills
Jakob Poeltl
Luka Samanic
Lonnie Walker IV
Derrick White

Injuries
None

Two Way Players
Drew Eubanks
Quinndary Weatherspoon

Head Coach
Gregg Popovich

Key Matchups

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 is shooting just 30% from deep but is shooting 53% from the field. He is leading the Spurs with 21.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He isn’t known for tough defense so hopefully we will see a big game from Gordon.

Jayson Tatum vs LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge has the length to give the Celtics a problem. In the last game between these two teams last season, Aldridge had 48 points and 13 rebounds. The Celtics held him to 3 points and 4 rebounds in the first game this season. He had 17 points in the Spurs win over the Bucks on Monday. He is averaging 19.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 blocks. He is shooting 51% from the field and 46% from beyond the arc. The Celtics definitely need to defend him well.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Bryn Forbes
Forbes is averaging 11.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. He is shooting 40% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. He had 14 points and 2 assists in the first game between these two teams.

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 103.8 while the Spurs are 20th with a defensive rating of 111.2. The Celtics average 110.9 points per game and the Spurs average slightly more at 113.6 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 46.2 rebounds per game while the Spurs are averaging 46.8 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. Against the Wizards, the Celtics had just 17 assists and the ball just didn’t move. They need to keep moving the ball and make the extra pass to find the best shot. They have to play team ball. Hero ball just doesn’t win games.

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 allowed the Wizards to be more aggressive and they lost to a team they should have beat. They have to be the team that works harder and wants it more.

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to play well for 48 minutes. The Celtics have been outscored 86-64 in the first quarters of their last 3 games. They need to come out strong and play hard until the final buzzer. They can’t continue to get down by double figures in the first quarter and expect to win, especially in their 4th game in 6 days. They will need consistent effort from start to finish if they want to beat the Spurs.

X-Factors
Home Game - The Celtics are once again at home where they should get a boost from the home crowd and from the familiarity of their home court. Also, the Spurs have been struggling somewhat on the road, losing 11 of 15 road games so far this season. The Celtics need to protect home court.

Injuries - The Celtics have a lot of injuries and it is next man up as it has been for the past several weeks. It would also be a blow to the Celtics if Daniel Theis can’t play but would buffer that if they can finally get Robert Williams back. Also, hopefully Kemba can get back on the court.

Officiating - Officiating is always an X-Factor. Every crew officiates differently and teams need to adjust to the way the game is called. Hopefully we get fair officiating and they let them play.