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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Boston Celtics

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The Spurs continue their season against the Celtics after Monday night’s cancellation for COVID precautions.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After making it through both preseason and an entire first month of the regular season with a relatively clean bill of health as far as contagious respiratory illnesses are concerned, the Spurs finally fell victim to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols on Monday night due to contact tracing issues with both San Antonio and their opponent, the New Orleans Pelican. That cancellation took San Antonio out of elite company, as they had been just 1 of 7 teams that had yet to cancel any games this season because of issues related to COVID-19.

In hindsight, now that all players and personnel are confirmed to be healthy, Monday night’s cancellation may help the Spurs out. This week was lined up to feature a grueling 5 games in 7 nights, with 4 of them coming against Bubble teams. The 3-day stretch they’ve had without a game leading to up tonight is San Antonio’s first such stretch going back to the last week of December and will be the longest stretch off that they have throughout the rest of the first half of the 2020-21 season.

Tonight’s opponent, the Boston Celtics, have had their fair share of COVID-related difficulties this season. They had 3 games postponed this month and lost rising star Jayson Tatum to the virus for much of January before getting him back Monday night in their 119-103 victory over the Chicago Bulls. In spite of this and the slow return of Kemba Walker from off-season knee surgery, Boston has managed to keep pace in a crowded Eastern Conference hierarchy. A victory over them tonight would be a big confidence booster going into Friday night’s match-up with the Denver Nuggets.

San Antonio Spurs (9-8) vs. Boston Celtics (10-6)

January 27, 2021 | 7:30 PM CST

Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Derrick White (Out — Toe)

Celtics Injuries: Romeo Langford (Out), Payton Pritchard (Out)

What to watch for

  • Kemba Walker should get the start tonight after having the Bulls game off for rest issues related to his knee, but the Spurs might still see a limited dosage of him. Walker has yet to play more than 28 minutes in the 4 games he has played since returning from injury, an indication that head coach Brad Stevens is opting to ease the All Star point guard back to his full capabilities. Walker is coming off a 21 point performance in a win over the Cavaliers.
  • While Jayson Tatum has become a household name since making his debut, the star of Jaylen Brown is proving to burn just as bright. Brown is once again having a breakout year for Boston, with career-best averages across nearly the entire board through 16 games. These numbers include a scoring jump of 7 points from last season (20.3 compared to 27.3) and an extremely impressive 43% from 3.
  • DeMar DeRozan has gone 7 games without making a 3 pointer. Hopefully he ends that streak tonight and starts launching them a bit more. One can dream, right?
  • Rookie Devin Vassell played big minutes in San Antonio’s win against the Wizards, once again showing his knack for being virtually everywhere on the floor on the defensive side or at least feeling that way. The Spurs’ 11th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Vassell has seen more minutes come his way over the last 2 weeks, going back to the Oklahoma City game. If ever there was an indication of Gregg Popovich’s trust in a youngster’s abilities, it’s playing time.

For the visitor’s perspective, please visit Celtics Blog.

As always, PtR’s Game Thread will be available 30 minutes before tip-off for those who wish to follow along with their fellow PtR members.