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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Boston Celtics

The Silver and Black seek to snap their six-game skid as their four-game homestand nears its end.

San Antonio Spurs v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The young Spurs have continued sliding down the Western Conference standings as they find themselves in the middle of a season-worst six-game losing streak while entering one of the roughest stretches of their schedule. And San Antonio hopes to pick up the first victory of their four-game homestand as they play host to the Boston Celtics on Friday night for an inter-conference showdown in the 2-1-0.

Former Silver and Black assistant Ime Udoka got off to a rocky start as a first-year head coach in Beantown but has since steered his club to eight wins over their last 12 contests. While the Celts aren’t the most dangerous opponent the good guys have faced thus far, they have more than enough star power between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and veteran savvy in Marcus Smart and Al Horford to run away with this one.

San Antonio Spurs (4-13) vs. Boston Celtics (10-9)

November 26, 2021 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: KENS | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Doug McDermott (Questionable — Knee), Devin Vassell (Questionable — Quadriceps), Josh Primo (Out — On Assignment), Joe Wieskamp (Out — Two Way), Devonta Cacok (Out — Two Way)

Celtics Injuries: Sam Hauser (Out — Two Way), Brodric Thomas (Out — Two Way), Robert Williams III (Out — Illness), Josh Richardson (Doubtful — Illness), Jaylen Brown (Game Time Decision — Hamstring)

What to Watch For

  • San Antonio has relied on Dejounte Murray to do just about everything for them this season. The 25-year-old floor general paces the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, deflections, shots, touches, and minutes, and it is abundantly clear they lean heavily on him to carry them past the finish line every night. The Spurs are 3-6 when Murray scores at least 20 points and 1-7 when he doesn’t reach that mark. However, Dejounte is often the only standout, and having been thrust into a suboptimal role as the engine of an offense, he needs more help from his supporting cast if they hope to dispatch Boston.
  • The Spurs have ruled Devin Vassell and Doug McDermott questionable for their matchup with Boston, and things could get a little out of hand if both of them can’t suit up on Friday night. San Antonio has drained the fewest three-pointers in the league this season, and the above duo accounts for just over a third of San Antonio’s trifectas. To make matters worse, Vassell and McBuckets are two of the three most accurate long-range marksmen on the roster. Bryn Forbes is reliable beyond the arc, but Lonnie Walker, Derrick White, and Dejounte Murray haven’t been able to find their stroke on a higher volume of threes this year.
  • The Celtics are finally hitting their stride, sporting the ninth-most efficient attack (112 Offensive Rating) in the NBA across their last five games. San Antonio, however, has seen its defense unravel, giving up the sixth-most points per possession (114.8) across that same stretch. These are a pair of teams heading in seemingly opposite directions, and the Spurs must ramp up their defensive intensity to make up for what has been a fairly pedestrian offense up to this point.
  • Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the second-highest scoring duo in the league this season, averaging a combined 48.9 points per game, and stopping the surging Celtics starts with keeping this explosive tandem in check. The Spurs held Brown to 20.5 points per game on 30.2% shooting in their two meetings last year. But they didn’t have as much success with his superstar counterpart as Tatum spearheaded a 30-point comeback behind a career-high 60 points in an overtime thriller with San Antonio nearly seven months ago. Even if the Spurs put the wraps on Jayson and Jalen, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Dennis Schroeder are capable of breaking out for massive performances.
  • The Silver and Black are 0-12 when falling behind by double digits this season, and they would do well to figure out how to refrain from digging themselves in early holes. Of course, that’s much easier said than done, though it would be worth experimenting with lineups and rotations, especially with a few significant contributors potentially sitting out of the matchup. Thaddeus Young played well off the bench when Jakob Poeltl was in health and safety protocols. Tre Jones has been a solid sparkplug in short stints. Jock Landale could offer the Spurs some much-needed floor spacing as one of the few frontcourt players comfortable stepping outside the arc. And perhaps it’s time to slightly alter roles for players who have struggled to acclimate, like Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White. Even Keldon Johnson should have a chance to try new things. The third-year forward has only seen four possessions as a roll man so far, and getting him more involved as a screener in the PNR might help him get downhill more often while providing him with a chance to develop as a short-roll passer.

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

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.