San Antonio Spurs (37-14) at Boston Celtics (30-22)
Wednesday, April 4
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #53, Home Game #28
TV: CSN-NE, FSSW-SA, NBA-LP 754/755
Radio: WOAI, WEEI
Referees: Bill Spooner, Eli Roe, Leon Wood
As with several of the Western conference teams, the Celtics will only face the Spurs this one time. Both teams are on win streaks with the Celtics having won their last 5 and the Spurs on an 8 game win streak. The Spurs have won 9 of their last 10 while the Celtics have won 7 of their last 10. The Celtics have been taking care of business at home with a 19-8 record at the Garden while the Spurs come in with a 16-10 record on the road.
The Spurs are playing in back to back games on the road, having played the Cavs on Tuesday night. However they had a very easy 35 point win over the Cavs and their starters all played less than 25 minutes. The Celtics have had a rare 2 days off since playing the Heat on Sunday. They were even able to have an even rarer practice. Six of the Spurs 14 losses came in the second game of back to back sets. However they have also won 7 of the 2nd games in back to back sets. Among their recent 7 game win streak are back to back to back wins against Dallas, New Orleans, and Philly.
The Celtics are in the 4th spot in the East, 1.5 games ahead of Philly for the Atlantic division title. They have also tied Atlanta for the 6th seed and are just 1.5 games behind the Pacers for the 3rd seed and 1 game behind slumping Orlando for the 5th seed. . The Spurs are the second seed in the West just 2 games behind the Thunder for the top spot and 4.5 games ahead of the Lakers, who are in 3rd. The Spurs are playing this one for pride and I expect them to come out aggressively and the Celtics must match their aggressiveness and intensity.
The Spurs have no injuries. Ray Allen is expected to play but there are conflicting reports as to whether he'll start or come off the bench. At first, Doc said that Ray would start but this morning's Globe said that Ray may come off the bench. I have Avery in the starting lineup but Ray could very well get the start. It's hard to tell how the team will play if Ray returns. If he starts, will they miss Avery's defense on the first unit? If Ray moves to the bench, will be be effective since he depends on the PG to get him the ball off screens and Rondo does that better than anyone in the league? Either way the Celtics must be the more aggressive team and they have to play like they want it more.
PG SG SF PF C
PG: Rajon Rondo 12.6 PPG 10.7 APG 1.8 SPG
SG: Avery Bradley 5.4 PPG 1.3 APG .208 3P%
SF: Paul Pierce 18.9 PPG 5.1 RPG 4.9 APG
PF: Brandon Bass 13.3 PPG 6.5 RPG 1.1 BPG
C: Kevin Garnett 15.4 PPG 8.1 RPG 1.1 BPG
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Mickael Pietrus (concussion) out
Ray Allen (ankle) probable
Greg Stiemsma (feet, thumb) probable
PG SG SF PF C
PG: Tony Parker 19.3 PPG 8.0 APG 1.0 SPG
SG: Daniel Green 8.4 PPG 1.3 APG .387 3P%
SF: Kawhi Leonard 8.2 PPG 5.4 RPG 0.9 APG
PF: Tim Duncan 15.2 PPG 9.0 RPG 1.4 BPG
C: Dejuan Blair 9.6 PPG 5.7 RPG 0.2 BPG
Rajon Rondo vs Tony Parker
Rondo has been compared to Parker at times and this matchup will be a challenge for both players. When Rondo is aggressive and focused, he can pretty much take on any point guard in the league, including Parker. Rondo usually gets up for big games and this is a big one. Hopefully the Rondo from Sunday is back for this one.
Brandon Bass vs Tim Duncan
Brandon will have his hands full in this matchup. Duncan still brings a lot to the table, especially defensively. He is great at getting position for rebounds and tip ins and Bass and the other Celtics bigs need to concentrate on keeping him away from the basket.
Kevin Garnett vs DeJuan Blair
KG has been playing very well and should be able to intimidate Blair enough to have a big game. Doc may switch Bass and KG to have KG cover Duncan, who is the bigger threat.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics must make defense a priority in this game.
The Spurs are having one of their best offensive seasons in franchise history. They are 3rd in the league in scoring, averaging 101.4 points per game. On the other hand, the Celtics are 27th in scoring, averaging 91.6 points per game. On the other hand, their defense has slipped a bit as they allow 96.5 ppg (17th) and 45.6% FG% (22nd). The Celtics are ranked first in the league, allowing teams to shoot just 42% against them and they are 3rd in points allowed giving up just 89.8 points per game. The Celtics must lock down the Spurs on defense because they won't win a shoot out against them.
Focus - With the Spurs in town, the Celtics must keep their focus from the opening tip to the final buzzer. The Spurs are very capable of taking advantage of any lack of focus on the Celtics part. The Celtics need to put in a strong effort for 48 minutes. The Spurs won't let up and neither can the Celtics if they want to win this one. Keeping their focus also includes taking care of the ball and not committing unforced turnovers.
Rebound The Spurs are a good rebounding team (ranked 13th) and the Celtics are still ranked last, so they need to concentrate on crashing the boards. They have been doing much better being aggressive on the boards during their win streak and they must keep that up and go after every rebound as a team.
Be Aggressive When the Celtics are aggressive in going after loose balls, taking the ball to the hoop and playing in your face defense, they are very tough to beat as they proved against the Heat. When they get lazy and allow teams to beat them to loose balls and rebounds and when they settle for jumpers and don't go to the basket, they are very beatable. They must stay aggressive and that starts with Rondo. Hopefully he comes out aggressively in this game as he did against the Heat.
Over the past 22 seasons, veteran official Bill Spooner has worked 1,234 regular season games, and 79 NBA playoff games. He officiated his first two Finals games during the 2010-11 season. In addition to his NBA experience, Spooner has seven years of collegiate officiating experience. He also has eight years of high school officiating experience in his home state of California. Spooner is the ref who failed to call Kobe's elbow to the throat of Ron Artest a couple years back, even though he was the ref in position to call it. Artest's complaints resulted in his ejection but nothing was called on Kobe in the game. The league later admitted their error and assessed Kobe a flagrant 1 for the elbow. But that didn't help Houston who had to play without Artest the rest of the game. Spooner is also the ref that was caught by a reporter telling Kurt Rambis that he would make up for a bad call he made on the other end. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Spooner while the Spurs are 0-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. The loss was in Dallas where the Celtics took 32 free throws to 25 for the Mavs and the officiating was pretty bad both ways. In the 3 wins, the Celtics shot 68 free throws to 58 for their opponents. Spooner's home W/L record this season of 20-16.
Eli Roe has officiated 345 regular season games during his first six NBA seasons. Prior to joining the NBA staff, Roe officiated in the CBA, NBA Development League and WNBA. He officiated in the NBA D-League Finals for two years, the D-League playoffs for four years and the WNBA Playoffs for two years. On the collegiate level, Roe refereed in the SEC, ASUN and OVC conferences and numerous Division
II and III, NAIA and Juco league games. He also worked in four Division I post-season conference tournaments. Roe tends to be inconsistent in his calls and can make the calls favor a team on any given night. The Celtics are 1-0 with Roe this season, and that win over the Wizards was officiated evenly. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games with Roe as an official. The Spurs are 2-0 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Roe. His home W/L record this season is 20-17.
Osie Leon Wood, III has officiated 600+ regular season games and 6 play-off games.
Prior to becoming an NBA referee, Wood was a shooting guard in the NBA. He was chosen 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1st round of the 1984 draft. During his career, he played for the 76ers, Bullets, Nets, Spurs, Hawks and Kings. He played in 274 games in his career and won a gold medal as a member of the 1984 US Olympic basketball team. When not officiating, Wood helps train younger officials. You would think that being a former player, Wood would try to be fair but he has been a mediocre ref at best. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 8-2 over their last 10 games with Wood officiating. In one loss this season, Chicago shot 20 free throws to 13 for the Celtics. In the other loss, the Lakers shot 26 free throws to 12 for the Celtics. The officiating in the win in Cleveland was terrible. Wood ignored a trip on Ray right in front of him in a 1 point game with 10 seconds left. Celtics shot 14 free throws to 25 for the Cavs. The Spurs are 2-0 this season and 9-1 over their last 10 games called by Wood. His home W/L record this season is 21-21.
Ray's Return and Aggressiveness
Ray Allen is expected to play but it's still up in the air whether he will start or come off the bench. They have been on a roll with Avery in the starting lineup. We won't know how his return to the team will affect their play until he comes back. Also, when they are aggressive they win but some games, they just seem to come out and play so sluggish. When they aren't aggressive they struggle. Hopefully we see the same aggressive mindset we saw against the Heat and that will begin with Rondo.