The shorthanded San Antonio Spurs conquered the downtrodden Detroit Pistons on Friday, outexecuting their lottery-bound brethren from start to finish in a comfortable victory. But their next opponent will pose a steeper challenge as they host the Boston Celtics for the finale of their much-too-brief two-game homestand at the AT&T Center.
While Jayson Tatum and company have enjoyed a couple of nights of rest leading up to this matchup, the Silver and Black must suit up less than 24 hours after their last game. With Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell out of commission, this SEGABABA could get out of control if head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t get a collective effort from his team.
San Antonio Spurs (13-26) vs. Boston Celtics (27-12)
January 7, 2022 | 5:00 PM CST
Watch: KENS 5| Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs: Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way), Charles Bassey (Out — Two-Way), Blake Wesley (Out — On Assignment), Devin Vassell (Out — Knee), Keldon Johnson (Out — Hamstring)
Celtics: JD Davison (Out — Two-Way), Mfiondu Kabengele (Out — Two-Way), Danilo Gallinari (Out — Knee)
What To Watch For
- Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the highest-scoring tandem in the NBA this season, combining for a staggering 57.6 points per game while catapulting the Celtics to the top of the league standings. The former has flowered into a full-fledged superstar, further cementing his case for MVP candidacy with a 29-14-10 triple-double in a rout over Dallas. That was on an off-night from the field, and the Spurs are all too familiar with the kind of damage Tatum can cause to a porous defense after he detonated for a career-high 60 points on them less than two years ago. As for Brown, he has developed into a championship-caliber sidekick that can shoulder the offensive responsibilities for extended spells. The 26-year-old swingman is shooting a career-best 49.8% while taking more shots than ever before for Boston, outstanding production that should lock in his second All-Star appearance.
- Whether directly or indirectly, a handful of former Spurs have ended up in Boston over the last year. San Antonio released Danilo Gallinari during the summer, and the Celtics promptly signed him to a two-year contract after he cleared the waiver wire. PATFO cut Luka Samanic after a lackluster few seasons in the 2-1-0, but he landed in Beantown for a second consecutive prove-it stint in the G-League. And this list could never be complete if we forgot to mention Derrick White, the do-it-all guard that fans said a teary-eyed goodbye to at the trade deadline a season ago. White was a shining example of where a relentless work ethic can take you in the NBA, and he was a staple for Gregg Popovich during his four-and-a-half years donning Silver and Black. Though he has moved on to greener pastures, the AT&T Center will certainly shower him with applause in his NBA homecoming.
- San Antonio couldn’t catch a break this week. Devin Vassell landed on the injury report as the team decided surgery was the best choice for dealing with persistent pain in his left knee. In another stroke of bad luck, Keldon Johnson found his way onto the injury report after tweaking his hamstring against the Pistons, leaving his status up in the air. Though everyone must step up tonight for the Spurs to have a fighting chance at taking down the reigning Eastern Conference champions, more of the burden will fall upon Tre Jones than anyone else now that their leading scorers are on the shelf for the time being. The 23-year-old floor general has averaged 14.6 points and 5.9 assists per game over the last month, and his 25-point flurry was instrumental to a shorthanded Silver and Black squad outlasting Detroit in the fourth quarter on Friday.
- Marcus Smart is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Al Horford is a five-time NBA All-Star, Robert Williams III is an All-Defense honoree, and Malcolm Brogdon is in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. With an exceptional supporting cast that also includes Sam Hauser, Derrick White, and Grant Williams, how can anyone figure out the Celtics? San Antonio is home to a solid depth chart, but their talent doesn’t stack up to a surefire contender. We already touched on how important Tre Jones will be to the Spurs earlier, and Jakob Poeltl is just as critical. The Austrian center does a bit of everything for this ball club, and that was no more apparent than when he stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and three blocks last night. Coach Pop will probably need his longest-tenured player to replicate that performance for the good guys to emerge victorious.
For the Celtics fans’ perspective, please visit Celtics Blog.
The Game Thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action on PtR’s Twitter feed.