San Antonio Spurs @ Boston CelticsTD Garden House, Boston, MA
February 12, 2014, 6:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
It could be argued that the Spurs need the All-Star break more than any team in the league. Judging by the reactions on websites, Twitter and radio, Spurs fans fall under two categories: either you think this team will be fine once it gets healthy or you think this team is a candidate to get bounced out early in the playoffs because of its inability to stay healthy and beat the top teams in the league this year. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle because it is not a given that the injury-stricken Spurs get healthy at the right time. That is a lot of assuming for a team that has failed to be healthy for much of this season.
How the right situation can turn a career around
While there will always be Chris Smiths out there, most NBA players have the talent to succeed. But in order to do so, they might need to find themselves in the right situation.
San Antonio sits at second in the West, despite losing to Detroit on Monday night in what might have been the ugliest loss for the Spurs this season. Without Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili, the Pistons bullied San Antonio throughout the contest, and head coach Gregg Popovich made his feelings about his team's performance well known at post-game press conferences. The Spurs have been beaten up and it is a testament to how good this organization is that it is still 37-15 on the season, but the Spurs showed true fatigue in the Detroit loss.
Luckily for them, there's just one last obstacle before a much-needed All-Star break and that is the Boston Celtics. Boston made it pretty clear what its intentions were heading into the season. Danny Ainge let Doc Rivers go to the Western Conference while also getting rid of stalwarts like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Boston brought in hot-shot college coach Brad Stephens, and despite a 19-34 record, its fans seem pretty happy with the job the coach ha done with this young and usually overmatched squad.
Boston isn't the most talented team on the offensive end, but Stephens has the group playing hard. That is seen in the fact that the Celtics are eighth in the league in points allowed and 15th in overall rebounding. Without Rajon Rondo for much of the season, Boston has struggled offensively in waves, averaging just 95.1 points per game, which is 25th overall. Rondo has been relatively pedestrian in his return, but he is under heavy minute restrictions as he gets back to full health. In his nine games this season, Rondo is averaging 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists to go along with a 14.4 PER.
The best player for the Celtics this year has been small forward Jeff Green, who erupted again in Boston's last game, a win over the Bucks. Green is leading Boston with 16.6 points per game. The rest of the roster, while talented, is limited on the offensive end. Without Rondo to create for much of the season, the offensive load has fallen on Green and in moments he has looked like a guy that could compete for an All-Star spot. He's still the number-one option when Boston is in the half-court.
San Antonio won't have to worry about an injured Avery Bradley, but center Jared Sullinger is really hitting his stride in the lane. We just watched Detroit dominate on the glass and in the paint against the Spurs, so slowing down the junkyard-dog type production from Sullinger will be one of the keys to this game. Sullinger has started 38 of the 51 games he has played in, averaging over 13 points and eight rebounds a contest. His PER is 17.4.
Rondo was rested the last time Boston played, but the Celtics have developed nice depth at the point guard position with Phil Pressey, who had 13 points and six assists in the win over Milwaukee. Rondo is expected to suit up against the Spurs and having Pressey come off of the bench makes a pretty poor Celtics second unit become a little more dangerous.
Guys like Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk have provided quality minutes in the front court for Boston, but other than Jerryd Bayless, the Celtics second unit doesn't have much fire power off of the bench on the perimeter.
Matchup to watch: Rondo and Green are obvious choices here, but how well San Antonio does in keeping Sullinger and the other bigs off of the offensive glass will tell the story of this game, especially with Splitter out of the lineup. Sullinger wins with effort and the Spurs looked very flat in the paint against Detroit. Boston is no Detroit on the boards, but the effort will still need to improve.
Celtics perspective can be found here: CelticsBlog
Game Prediction: Spurs by 6.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 3 1/2.
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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