Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs start road trip against Boston Celtics

David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

The San Antonio Spurs begin another road trip without either of their small forwards.

San Antonio Spurs @ Boston Celtics

TD Garden, Boston, MA
November 21, 2012, 6:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW. CSN-NE - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI, WEEI

The San Antonio Spurs face a difficult road trip, this time visiting Eastern Conference teams, made doubly difficult due to injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson. Leonard suffered quadriceps tendinitis and was slated to recover within 10-14 days, while Jackson suffered a broken pinky finger and will be out four to six weeks.

Their first opponent happens to be the veteran Boston Celtics, who despite being fresh off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals and taking the eventual champions Miami Heat to 7 games, are sitting at a not-so pretty 6-5 record, punctuated by a 120-107 drubbing by the Heat on opening night and a 103-83 blowout against the lowly Detroit Pistons. Nevertheless, one of the most notable occurrences of the Celtics' season is Rajon Rondo's streak of regular season games with ten or more assists, though one extended in controversial fashion as Rondo continued playing against the Pistons even with the score beyond reach. His streak, dating back to the 2011-12 season, currently stands at 34, 3 behind second placer John Stockton and 12 games behind Magic Johnson.

Nevertheless, the Celtics look to have the advantage, as they are currently healthy and host the Spurs instead of the other way around. The Spurs however must exploit the Celtics' inability to crash the boards (the Celtics are 30th in ORB%) and their struggling defense (22nd in defensive efficiency!) if they want a chance at stealing this game.

Oh, and I forgot to mention Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett are on the same team. If there's any team apart from the Mavericks to dislike, it's these guys.

As the San Antonio Spurs travel to Boston to take on the Celtics at the TD Garden a nagging question about injuries arises. Injuries abound on the Spurs but one in particular injury might be missing, Tony? Tony's woes have been under the radar so far this season. Swept under the rug after the Manu debacle, the Kawhi surprising injury and now Captain Jack's broken finger. Tony Parker had been modifying his game either at his own volition or at Pop's direction for the past two seasons. Tony has gone from a shoot first point guard who breaks down the opposing team's defense while opening up shooters on the perimeter to a pass first, control the tempo point guard. Tony has been one of the best finishers at the rim for the past 10 years. He has ranked in the top 10 FG% for most of his career. His And1 numbers have always been stellar. He finished at the rim in addition to his world famous tear drop has made him an unstoppable force in the paint. But...there was a brief time were Tony wasn't so spectacular. That was in the 2009-2010 season when it was announced that Tony was battling Planter Fasciitis. His attempts at rim were down, his at rim FG% was the lowest of his career and his vaunted tear drop had begun to dry up.

Back to the Future: Tony's current at rim FG% is the lowest of his career by almost 8%. His in the paint floater/tear drop is at all time low in FG% as well. He is playing the fewer minutes than any other time in the past 7 year except for 2010. His win shares is the lowest of his entire career. The only time his Offensive Rating has been lower was his rookie year. He is also getting blocked more than any other time in his career at almost 10% of his shots being blocked (the only other time this was close was 2010). It's not all doom and gloom though. Tony is taking care of the ball better than any other time in his career. He has dropped his Turn Over % to 10.6 per 100 possession which is an all time low for him. His passing is at an apex. He is passing the ball better than any other time in his career as well.

Final analysis. Tony Parker looks as if he is taking the projected trajectory of a great guard: Calvin Murphy, Bob Cousy, Jason Kidd, Hersey Hawkins, Maurice Cheeks, Hal Greer all took a similar trajectory as Tony. Tony Parker has peaked as an incredibly fast slasher whose capability to finish at the rim is second to none. Tony has lost a step and it is showing, albeit not overtly. He is still driving, just not quite as much. He is finishing but not quite as good. He is still looking for contact in the paint but now is more likely to be blocked. Tony is being forced to play a different game and his slow descent from basketball sainthood is showing and it has depleted the stockpile of possible attacks the Spurs can use on opposing defenses. Whether age, Planter Fasciitis, fatigue from the Olympics or something else, Tony Parker is not playing at the level he is accustomed to.

Lineups

Starters
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Gary Neal
SF: Danny Green
PF: Tim Duncan
C: DeJuan Blair

Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili
Tiago Splitter
Boris Diaw

Head Coach
Gregg Popovich

Lineups

Starters
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Jason Terry
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kevin Garnett

Key Bench Players
Jeff Green
Courtney Lee
Leandro Barbosa

Head Coach

Doc Rivers

Celtics perspective can be found here: CelticsBlog

Game Prediction: The loss of their best perimeter defenders and the start of another road trip mean the Spurs, despite fighting valiantly for all 48 minutes, will lose narrowly by 3. Vegas says Spurs by 1.5

*** Tony Parker piece was written by Joe deLarios and not racm. Any criticism can be sent his way.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.

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