Boston and San Antonio: Two of a Kind

Celtics Spurs: one of my favorite NBA match-ups. One that features the two preeminent big men of the new millennia as well as two of the league's best coaches. But the similarities don't end there. Both teams feature a trio of All-Stars who have sacrificed scoring, playing time, and salary for the good of their perspective teams.

Doc Rivers has praised Gregg Popovich on numerous equations, and when asked which values he shares with the Spurs 4-time Champion head coach, he responded "All of them, pretty much all of them". Both are known as "team-ball" advocates, defense-first believers (though lately the Spurs have become an offensive juggernaut), and master motivators.

While Tim Duncan was the ultimate #1 pick in 1997, Tony Parker was drafted with the 28th pick in 2001, and Manu Ginobili was taken at #58 in 1999, without a doubt the greatest draft steal from that late in the 2nd round. Current General Manager, R.C. Buford, has continued this unbelievable talent-scouting since taking over in 2002. With draft steals such as and Kawhi Leonard (15th) and trades for undervalued players like Laker-killer Danny Green, (drafted at 46 by Cleveland) he has surrounded his stars with top-notch role-players. Similarly, Celtics G.M. Danny Ainge has found underrated youngsters like Rajon Rondo (21st), Avery Bradley (19th), and Jared Sullinger (21st) to keep Boston in contention despite an aging core.

Boston has made deep playoff runs for 5 seasons, winning one championship in 2008, and San Antonio has made the playoffs every year for 15 years, winning four titles, which is even more impressive considering they are one of the NBA's smallest markets (as much as we complain about players going to L.A., Miami, and NYC, Boston is a still a huge city where tons of games reach National TV). However, the last 4 postseasons have seen both teams fall short of their ultimate goal, and the biggest reason has been the decline of their aging foundations. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are still 2 of the game's best big-men, but in years when they struggled with injuries, their teams just couldn't compete. Last year, Boston and San Antonio almost met in the finals, and it's no coincidence that both The Big Fundamental and The Big Ticket had comeback seasons. While both teams should still mix it up in the postseason, their biggest hurdle is that everything must go right for them to win it all. Whereas the defending-champion Miami Heat overcame an abdominal-injury to Chris Bosh last season, and Dallas survived Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury the year before, neither the C's nor Spurs can make it through the playoffs without marquee guys like Rondo, Parker, Pierce, or Ginobili. On top of that, because veterans can't log 40 every night the way the Heat, Clippers, or Thunder stars can, the benches really have to step up. We've seen early struggles with an incosistent bench, and guys like Jeff Green and Courtney Lee will have to elevate their games for us to contend (just like the Leonard's, Green's, and Splitter's down in Texas).

With Hall of Fame coaches and players battling in Beantown, tonight's matchup should be a treat for NBA fans, and you still can't count either the Celtics or Spurs out of meeting in this year's Finals.