The 8-3 San Antonio Spurs are coming into town and playing in the Garden tonight at 7:30. I continue to consider the Spurs the ‘Celtics of the West’ as they both seem to have an aging core, a great head coach, and strong bench scoring. They are one spot ahead of the Celtics in assists per game (2nd to the Celtics’ 3rd), and both teams are having trouble rebounding the ball and protecting the rim due to lack of a true center (the Spurs are 27th and the Celtics are 30th in rebounding, both in bottom half for blocked shots).
The Spurs are led by Tim Duncan, who has averaged 18 points and 10 boards a game. They are coming off a loss to the Clippers 92-87, where Duncan put up 20 and 14.
This game should be a test of the benches. If the Celtics can get a boost from the bench in scoring it would go great lengths in securing a win. Both teams boast deep benches, the Spurs is one of the deepest in the league, currently having 12 players playing 10 minutes or more a game. The Spurs recently lost both Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard to injuries, which means that Corey Joseph is likely to start. This thins out the scoring for the second unit of the Spurs, but players like Patty Mills and Gary Neal can both heat up and be dangerous offensively (Mills has a season high of 18, while Neal exploded for a season high of 27).
The Celtics are coming off a lazy loss to Detroit on Sunday, where they were slow on rotations and could never find an offensive rhythm. They still have a lot to prove, especially with the red hot Knicks and the reloaded Nets, the Celtics have yet to assert any sort of dominance in the division. The C’s need a signature win to build off of, and tonight provides the perfect opportunity. Doc had some extended time to sure up the rotation with two off days, where hopefully he and the Celtics can exploit some weaknesses in one of the best coached teams in the NBA. A big night from Lee or Green would be huge (stop me if you’ve heard this before) as a spark of the bench.
Bench scoring and player rotations will be important in determining which team will come out with the victory. Greg Popovich is, for my money, the best coach in the league and will be a good test of cohesion early in the season. Should be a good one, as the Celtics have the Oklahoma City Thunder coming into town on Friday.